Setting up an Online Learning Experience

onlineWhat is the significance of knowing the technology available to you?

As an online instructor, it is essential that the instructor is proficient in computer basics and navigational tasks performed on the computer. These basic tasks include navigating to locate files on the computer (file explorer), saving files to folders, copying, cutting, moving and pasting files, as well as uploading and downloading files. Familiarity with social media software, wikis, and course management systems are also good skills to have. Having knowledge of the online technology course building tools will support the instructor in designing any learning experience that they may have designed for a face-to-face environment (Boettcher, & Conrad, 2010). The instructor can design an engaging learning experience while keeping it simple by understanding how to use a few key technology tools to create audio and video lectures, using discussion forums, use of social networking sites, instant messaging and course management systems. Sharing navigational tips and tricks with students to ensure they are prepared to learn in an online classroom will benefit the student in adapting to the online environment (Ely, 2011). Opportunities for synchronous communication, including live chat or live video sessions, will only help you gain credibility and respect in the students eyes (Ely, 2011). As the online instructor gains more experience in teaching they can introduce more advanced technology to their courses.

u got classWhy is it essential to communicate clear expectations to learners?

Establishing the guidelines for what is expected at the onset of the course ensures understanding and satisfaction in an online course. Providing a syllabus for the course provides the learner with goals, learning outcomes, and requirements (Boettcher, & Conrad, 2010). For myself when I start a new online course one of the first pieces of information that I seek out is the course syllabus. The syllabus will give me an overview of what the course objectives are, what I will learn and what tasks and projects I am expected to complete. The rubric provides me with what is expected of me when completing discussion board and project assignments. If the student is provided with the expectations for the course it sets the stage for the course and prepares them for success.

What additional considerations should the instructor take into account when setting up an online learning experience?

Additional considerations that the instructor must consider when setting up an online learning experience are making themselves available to the students by letting them know their schedule and how they can be reached along with their online office hours. Professional communication in an online environment requires a degree of netiquette (Ely, 2011). In the online environment where text prevails, it is important that the instructor pays special attention to the tone that is communicated to the students. The instructor must be careful of how they address and respond to the students in an online discussion board. Responding in a respectful manner will cultivate respect for the instructor and their position (Ely, 2011). Letting the students know the time that may be required for the weekly readings, activities and assignments provide guidance, which is essential to planning for the student. The ability to show your expertise in the online classroom by interacting in the discussion forum, feedback from grading assignments and general announcements is also essential to engaging the online student. The online instructor must take the time to set realistic expectations for their online learning environment and also have realistic expectations. It will probably require figuring out the dynamics of the online learning experience and establish a sense of what the standards as an online instructor will be (Ely, 2011).

References

Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Conrad, R., & Donaldson, J. A. (2011). Engaging the online learner: Activities and resources for creative instruction (Updated ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Ely, Sabrina (2011).  Five Expectations Students Should Have of an Online Instructor. eLearn Magazine. Retrieved from http://elearnmag.acm.org/featured.cfm?aid=2048939

8 thoughts on “Setting up an Online Learning Experience

  1. Hello Leslie. I enjoyed reading your blog. One of the areas you mention is communication by the faculty member with the students through discussion forums, etc. This of course the teaching presence that is mentioned in the textbook (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010). Additionally, the textbook and the text by Simonson, Smaldino & Zvacek (2015) talk about building a sense of community. We’re examined this through the use of icebreaker assignments we looked at this week. If you were responsible for training a new faculty member who had never taught online about building community, how would you go about it? What information would you include and what suggestions would you make for the instructor when he/she is building the course in the initial stages?

    Dave

    References

    Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. V. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

    Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., & Zvacek, S. (2015). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (6th ed.). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publications.

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    1. David,
      Great questions. To begin with I would probably refer them to the course texts for they are loaded with all the great information for teaching an online course. I would also set-up a few sessions where I would go over essential elements of online training that I think need special attention. I would also make myself available to answer any questions or concerns that the new online instructor may have.

      Leslie

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  2. Hi Leslie!
    I’m still communicating via my smart phone so I apologize for any errors and if this winds up in more than one post.
    I enjoyed reading your post regarding setting up an Online course. One thing I noticed you did not mention regarding technology was that when you design for the web you have to account for different systems. Orlando (2014) points out it is easy to forget that and not take into account that different web pages will look/run differently on different browsers and even different computer devices (laptop vs. tablet, Apple vs. HP, etc.). I have even seen this when I email slides to my personal email address to work on at home – my home system has a higher Microsoft Office Suite so formatting changes when I email back and forth between work and home. How can you account for these potential challenges when you do not know what systems your learners will be utilizing? What steps can you take to ensure everyone is able to see/utilize all parts of your design? How can you determine if a video will play in countries where the Internet may be slow? What precautions can be taken to ensure you do no lose learners due to technical difficulties?

    Anita

    References:

    Orlando, J. (March 3, 2014). Top 10 Rules for Developing Your First Online Course. Faculty Focus: Higher Ed Teaching Strategies from Magna Publications. Retrieved from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/top-10-rules-developing-first-online-course/

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    1. Hi Anita,
      I honestly think that will be an area that I let the technology group handle. Quite often today the websites are created with HTML5 which manages all of the device types. I would probably confirm with the technology team that they have built the CMS to manage the browser and device options.

      Leslie

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      1. Leslie,
        I can tell you from personal experience, that you will always encounter issues with technology and it is critical to identify them early and provide potential work-arounds for learners so as to minimize their frustrations. For example, we had courses that were working perfectly fine across our government computers and then the Internet Explorers on all government computers were updated – although not all at the same time. Typically it starts with headquarters and works its way down to smaller Army garrisons. As soon as updates started happening reports of issues with not being to access the different modules and videos not playing. We quickly determined it was a compatibility issue and had to provide work-arounds emailed out to all managers and then notices posted on the actual login page telling them how to fix the compatibility issue prior to launching a course. Then we moved into a new program and began updating our trainings in that program which prevents skipping lessons but is actually too “touchy” – if a video clip is 52 seconds but the screen goes black at 50 seconds and the learner closes it, the system registers it as a skip and will not mark the module completed. Online and mobile are not the same also. We utilize HTML5 and have conversion issues with training that can be accessed via a smart phone and have had to utilize Articulate Storyline which converts it to mobile friendly viewing prior to putting it on our website. Not all systems work well together so we as Instructional Designers have to be aware of that and ensure we are not wasting our time creating curriculum that cannot be accessed by all. You have your technology department, we have many layers in the government to go through and they do not always communicate to each other. Our G6 (department that handles our servers and Internet) often pushes down security updates that interfere with portions of our training (i.e. videos will not play) which frustrates our staff, they contact us, and we have to send it up the chain until we can find out where the disconnect is. We have local Network Enterprise Centers (NECs) that manage LAN access at local Army garrisons and they block sites/programs causing issues with our training and we have to do an exception to policy memo to get them to grant access to a site such as Blackboard for our Instructor-Led Virtual Courses. I would hope things would be much simpler in the civilian world as it has caused me to have to take deep breaths so as not to throw my computer across the room on many occasions.

        Anita

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      2. Hi Anita,
        You posted some great points about the unknown in technology. Does your organization conduct a variety of formative evaluations? I believe this has the potential to reduce the unknowns that may surface during an implementation or ‘go live’ phase of an ID project.
        Leslie

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  3. Leslie – Good post! You’ve identified several keys elements that resemble those that I select when reviewing the details on an online course. The course syllabus provides the essential information and serves as my “road map” for success. Like you, it is one of the first areas I review when starting the course.

    You’ve also mentioned netiquette. For me, this is the bigger of the two areas. With the increased usage of social media, individuals new to an online environment may struggle with the methods of completing communications in a written format. Tina Alberino (2014) notes “written communications tend to be interpreted very differently than face-to-face interactions, which can be understandable given the lack of inflection, facial expression and body language.” (www.thisuglybeautybusiness.com) Many people process the information based on their own context and experiences which can lead to conflicts based on the tone and details of the message.

    Many people stand behind their anonymity in social settings but once they are forced to participate in extended conversations and discussions, they struggle. “Given our tendency to hear what we expect to hear, it is very easy for people in conflict to misunderstand” one another which leads to extended miscommunication. (www.colorado.edu)

    As individuals become more comfortable with understanding the purpose of online communication in class, they will continue to become more comfortable.

    MFABRAMS – ID ArchiTech

    References
    Alberino, T. (August 30, 2014) Interpreting written communications: The 7%. Retrieved from http://www.thisuglybeautybusiness.com/2014/08/interpreting-written-communications-7.html

    Misinterpretation of communication. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.colorado.edu/conflict/peace/problem/misinter.htm

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  4. Leslie,
    While we do formative assessments, there are still issues. For example, our Learning Management System (LMS) is controlled by G6 (Headquarters IT Department) so even after we have things running smoothly, they will push down an update that causes all kinds of issues. As you can imagine, when new threats emerge, updates are done to the computers which help ensure the security of government computers which is understandable with Operational Security (OPSEC) being paramount. Unfortunately the updates/patches are not always compatible with our online courses. One update prevented all of our videos from running and they could not get it fixed and wound up resetting the system back to before they pushed down the update. Unfortunately this was 5 days after the update and anyone doing training during those 5 days had to redo it. We also have no notification of when updates are being made. We find out when we login.

    The other area is that we have a multi-generational workforce that spans those individuals who do not know how to operate a computer to English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) to tech savvy learners in our organization so it is impossible to determine what variety you will have in the online environment.

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