It is important to consider challenges and barriers to learning online. Challenges include time, not being able to see emotions, feeling of frustration, technical skills, and internet/network connection. Quality guidelines are important to reduce drop out, increase the reputation of elearning, and make success possible. Knowing the different generations of learners (Veterans, Baby Boomers, Generations X, Y, and Z) helps to understand how to meet their needs. Veterans, Baby Boomers and Generation X are also classified as ‘Digital immigrants’ – those that learned to use technology vs. Generation Y and Z, ‘Digital natives’ who grew up with technology (http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/80/understanding-todays-learner).
Digital immigrants might like printed information, and very clear instructions. Digital natives might like shorter chunks of information, visual content, and opportunities to construct their own learning. Web tools can be used for elearning, there are numerous available, many are free. ePortfolios can be used by students, teachers, and institutions. Set clear outcomes, expectations, have valid assessment, and use a range of tools.
eLearning programs that I experienced which were good and made success possible all had clear objectives, activities, assignments, and assessment. Conversely, the courses which were negative learning experiences the following was not present: active learning, interaction and the development of learning communities, prompt constructive feedback, use of synchronous as well as asynchronous learning tools, and variety of assessment (Examples from http://www.futured.com/).
It is crucial to take the time to plan a purposeful and meaningful course. It is not just a matter of loading existing course materials online. Like all courses there must be alignment between objectives, instruction/content, and assessment. Technology must support the learning. Be ‘intentional’ – ask why and what? Paired and group work can be done. It is possible to build community and have interaction online, this is of great value to learners.
I would firstly draw up quality guidelines. Steps should be taken during the program to look for signs of potential drop outs and to contact learners at risk. The attrition rate of each intake would be measured and evaluated. I would be present on the site, set clear objectives, use an icebreaker e.g. ‘Lineup’ (Conrad & Donaldson, 2011, p. 56), have a range of activities and types of assessment, use images and graphics as well as text, videos, and games. Have clear structure, provide lots of feedback, reflective journals, provide opportunities for collaboration and interaction e.g. small group discussions like a forum, team projects, active learning, group activities use of synchronous tools e.g.a live presentation, debate, or guest speaker, as well as asynchronous learning tools e.g. forums, videos. Boettcher’s and Conrad’s list of ten best practices for teaching online is an excellent guide which I will follow.
Barker, K. Dr., FuturEd. (2002). Canadian Recommended E-learning Guidelines (CanREGs). Retrieved from http://www.futured.com/
Boettcher, J. V., and Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Conrad, R. and Donaldson, J. (2011). Engaging the Online Learner. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Learning Solutions Magazine. (2015). Understanding Today’s Learner. Retrieved from http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/80/understanding-todays-learner