Decrease Student Anxiety: Communicate Technical Skills Required for Success
Working with technology can be challenging. If you’ve ever tried to learn a new tool or develop an online skill, you probably understand the frustration that often accompanies these kinds of tasks. Added pressure—such as a deadline or high-stakes situation—can further increase anxiety and cause an intense distaste for the situation, tool, or skill involved.
Each time they enter an online course, students potentially face the same challenges. The act of learning itself can be a stressful process, so any steps you can take to lessen student anxiety helps create faster engagement with your course. An easy way to help suppress students’ uncertainty is to provide an overview of the technical skills they need to be successful in your course.
Quality Matters (QM) Standard 1.6: Minimum technical skills expected of the student are clearly stated.
Letting students know what types of tools they need for the course is quite different than explaining to them the types of skills they need to be proficient. Avoid the common mistake of addressing technical tools only; students need to understand both requirements.
How to Determine the Technical Skills Students Need
To determine the technical skills needed, think of what you expect students to do on a regular basis throughout the course. Give special consideration to the assignments and activities that they will complete. Consider the examples of technical skills that QM provides:
- Using the learning management system
- Using email with attachments
- Creating and submitting files in commonly used word processing program formats
- Copying and pasting
- Downloading and installing software
- Using spreadsheet programs
- Using presentation and graphics programs
Sample: Combining Technical Skills and Tools Information
Technical skills and tools required for this course: An Internet connection is necessary to participate in discussions and assignments, access readings, transfer course work, and receive feedback from your instructional associate and/or professor. For web-based courses, students should have a basic working knowledge of computers and Internet use as well as access to a computer with a broadband (DSL, cable, satellite) Internet connection. Other requirements for each course are listed in the university catalog. At a minimum, you must have Microsoft Office 2003, XP, 2007 or OpenOffice. Microsoft Office is the standard office productivity software used by faculty, students, and staff. Microsoft Word is the standard word processing software, Microsoft Excel is the standard spreadsheet software, and Microsoft PowerPoint is the standard presentation software. You will also be required to copy + paste and attach and upload documents for assignment submissions.
Do you have any ideas for how to effectively communicate necessary technical skills? What about other ideas for alleviating student anxiety in an online course? We would love to hear from you in the comments section!