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Three Ways to Improve the Online Learning Experience

Submitted by on November 2, 2012 – 9:14 am5 Comments
Overview:

  • Fostering effective learning experiences in the online classroom is a continual process.
  • Instructors can improve students’ learning experiences by promoting collaboration, using web resources, and facilitating content curation throughout a course.
  • Although creating memorable learning experiences takes time, it’s well worth the investment.

For students to gain meaningful experiences from online courses, instructors must think about building courses that go beyond PDF documents, talking head videos lectures, and multiple-choice tests. Creating multifaceted and engaging virtual classrooms can be particularly challenging for instructors teaching online for the first time but also for those who have a little more experience under their belt.

Be encouraged—every course start date provides an opportunity for improvement. Allow your course to continuously evolve, iteration after iteration, in ways that work best for you and your students’ needs. Whether you’re creating a course from the ground up or revamping one taught previously, here are three ways to improve the online learning experience for your students:

1. Create opportunities for students to collaborate and connect with each other.

Think of connectedness less as a student-instructor two-way dialog and more as an open network that not only increases student engagement, but provides avenues of collaboration where students learn from each other (St. Germain, 2011). Use features

Visual map of social networking

Image source: Thinkstock

inside the Learning Management System (LMS), like discussion boards and wikis, where students can openly share opinions and viewpoints about course topics and build on each others’ knowledge. Be brave enough to venture outside the LMS–consider using social media sites, like Twitter, which provide open platforms for sharing and communication among students and with experts in the field (this is especially helpful for adult learners interested in developing personal learning networks).

 2. Take advantage of web resources.

This includes not only web tools that promote collaboration, but also resources that provide a variety of perspectives on course topics, like websites, journal articles, and YouTube videos. By doing so, instructors create robust, rich learning environments that offer students more depth than textbook readings might do on their own. As noted in St. Germain (2011),

 …the ‘online’ in online course does not mean uploading Word documents into a course template…Expand your view of how computer applications and Web resources can be used to increase the relevance, power, and memorability of the educational experiences you create.

Be creative when looking for web tools and resources, and remember that the time spent finding the right ones is worth the investment—chances are that students want more technology weaved throughout the course.

3. Embrace your role as a facilitator of learning.

Instead of all eyes focused on the instructor as in a traditional classroom setting, students now look to the vast amount of content provided by the information-rich internet. (St. Germain, 2011). Rather than insisting on being the “sage of the stage,” facilitate ways for students to reference the internet effectively throughout your course, and curate content for them so they are guided to the appropriate information (St. Germain, 2011). Doing so also helps bridge the gap between the course content and the real world (St. Germain, 2011). The more an instructor embraces their role as a facilitator of learning, the more naturally they will foster collaborative opportunities for students to learn from each other and use web resources and tools throughout the course to create rich learning environments.

Share your experience: Do you have methods for improving online students’ learning experiences? Share them with us using the comments box below.

References:
St.Germain, E. (2011). Five common pitfalls of online course design. Retrieved from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/five-common-pitfalls-of-online-course-design/

5 Comments »

  • […] For students to gain meaningful experiences from online courses, instructors must think about building courses that go beyond PDF documents, talking head videos lectures, and multiple-choice tests. Creating multifaceted and engaging virtual classrooms …  […]

  • […] For students to gain meaningful experiences from online courses, instructors must think about building courses that go beyond PDF documents, talking head videos lectures, and multiple-choice tests. Creating multifaceted and engaging virtual classrooms …  […]

  • Becky Kinney says:

    #eTop12 – Curating content is all well and good, but in my experience, the majority of students won’t follow the links you provide unless you have a way to force them to do so. I am experimenting the the Canvas LMS, which provides instructors with an easy way to distinguished between required and optional course elements, including web resources. I think there is some great potential there.

    When you assemble a large number of resources, I think it’s important to provide excellent guidance in terms of which resources are best for the achievement of specific learning outcomes. I also think it’s important to provide students a quick and easy way to assess their own need to attain or brush-up prerequisite competencies, and easy access to resources that help in as tightly targeted a way as possible.

    Confronting students with a long page of links does not inspire them to follow very many of them, and knowing they won’t go to all of them leaves them wondering whether it’s worth following any at all. Less is more, especially when no priorities have been set by the mentor.

  • slinden says:

    Hi, Becky–

    Thanks for your response! Two things you mentioned are key: indicating which resources are required/optional and providing clear guidance on how the curated materials align with learning objectives. I agree with you–it’s important (and by important I mean necessary!) that as facilitators of learning we be choosy and thoughtful when determining what kind of content (be it articles, photos, videos) and how much of that content we want to provide our students.

    Also, glad to see that you’re participating in #eTOP12! We look forward to hearing more from you. 🙂

  • […] Overview: Fostering effective learning experiences in the online classroom is a continual process. Instructors can improve students’ learning experiences by promoting collaboration, using web…  […]