Setting Up an Online Learning Experience

The preparation for the online learning experience is similar to the preparation for the face-to-face environment; the main deference is “more planning must be done before students arrive at the course site” (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010, p. 56).

The Technology Available:

Computer Monitors Shaking To be able to create an effective learning experience which challenges and engages students, instructor should utilize the technology tools available to them (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010) through their institution and online. For example, the learning management system could be used to facilitate the discussions among students; online discussions create meaningful and social environments, which promotes students’ interactions (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010).

Additionally, at the beginning of online courses, the instructors are encouraged to create welcoming and safe environment, which promote students’ openness. For this first step, instructors could post personal introductions about themselves to present the human aspect of their life (Laureate Education Inc., n.d.). Moreover, instructors may choose to put a picture, audio message or a video (Laureate Education Inc., n.d.). Technology could facilitate these activities; however, technology could be a barrier to effective online communication. For this reason, Conrad and Donaldson (2011) explained that instructors are encouraged to use and understand the technology tools available to them and provide introductory interactions that could “break the ice of using technology” (p. 52). Since there are many tools available online, instructors could select one to three technology tools which could be used to support the subject area and the learning outcomes (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010). Once the instructors select the proper tools then they could help students by building the needed skills to use these tools (Conrad & Donaldson, 2011).

Communicating Clear Expectations:

Multitasking mom

In the online learning environment, students come to the course, and they want to be successful (The George Washington University, n.d.). Without support, or a welcoming and safe environment students could drop from the course as early as the first week (Laureate Education Inc., n.d.). The syllabus provides a clear road map for students about the goals of the course, the important dates, activities and assignments (The George Washington University, n.d.). In addition, online learning environment provides “policies, procedures, and the mechanics about how to communicate and learn in an online environment” (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010, p. 72). Students have many responsibilities related to their work and family; they need to plan ahead for the upcoming projects, assignments and the associated workload (The George Washington University, n.d.). This aspect is very important for me as a student; as I am an adult learner with work and family responsibilities, it is important for me to know the expectation, the dates and plans for the course so I could plan my other responsibilities accordingly.

Additional considerations:

The other additional considerations that instructors could plan for when designing and implementing an online learning experience are: building personal connections with students (Laureate Education Inc., n.d.), establishing a weekly rhythm for the course which sustain students’ engagement with the content (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010), and developing effective discussion questions that could support the growth of the online learning community (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010).

The conclusion:

This week’s resources and discussions helped me in understanding the importance of the instructor’s presence in the online learning environment. Through effective planning, instructors could build a safe and inviting environment for students from the beginning of the course. This presence continues during the course through providing clear expectations and road map for students to help them navigate through the online experience. Ice breakers, weekly plans, and effective discussion boards are all effective strategies that could promote students enjoyment and success in the online learning experience.
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.
Laureate Education Inc. (Producer). (n.d.). Launching the online learning experience [Video podcast]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_2098594_1%26url%3D
The George Washington University. Establishing expectations. Retrieved from http://learn.gwumc.edu/hscidist/FRED/EstablishingExpectations/index.htm
[Untitled Image of Computer Monitors Shaking ]. Retrieved from March 21, 2013 from http://aspanational.wordpress.com/2012/02/09/the-impact-of-technology-on-the-federal-government/
[Untitled image of a multitasking woman]. Retrieved March 21, 2013 from http://childrensdirectory.net/2012/07/multitasking-mama/

Online Learning Communities

This blog post provides insights on online learning communities; the post covers its impact on students learning and satisfaction, the elements of community building, how to sustain the online community and relationship to effective learning instructions.

The Impact

Online learning communities provide venues for students to challenge each other, co-construct knowledge, and provide appropriate feedback (Laureate Education Inc., n.d.).  Additionally, both instructors and students participate equally in the learning community; however, instructors should create a safe environment for students to help them in expressing themselves and explaining to them how he/she will support them thought their learning journey (Laureate Education Inc., n.d.).

Community Building

Community Building

Building an effective learning community requires planning and clear vision on who will be participating in the community (Saragina, 1999) and what are the common interests for this community that will keep participants engaged. Wilcoxon (2011) suggested that the structure of a learning community should include social presence, teacher presences, structured and unstructured cognitive presence ( full article ). Palloff and Pratt in Laureate Education Inc. (n.d.) explained that the community consists of people, purpose to community, process in which the training is developed, communication and social presence.

Sustaining the Online Community

Students who start their online learning experience unprepared may drop out early in the course (Laureate Education Inc., n.d.). For this reason, instructors should reach out to students early once they recognize that the students are not present, and students, in general, appreciate the follow-up (Laureate Education Inc., n.d.). Further, it is the responsibility of the administration, instructors and students to build the community and sustain its presence. For example, institution could offer mandatory online orientations to help students getting familiar with the environment; by this means, students who  do not want to pursue online learning could then leave without affecting the enrollment in actual courses (Laureate Education Inc., n.d.).

Learning Community

Clip Art from MS Word

Online Learning and the Community

Effective online instruction happen when the learners are able to interact with each other, with content and the instructor (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright & Zvacek, 2012). Additionally, when designing online courses, we have to include strategies which promote students’ engagement through the exchange of knowledge and experiences (Simonson et al., 2012). Similarly, in online learning communities we have to develop rules of engagement that by stating expectations, frequency and how to engage (Laureate Education Inc., n.d.). By this means, we will be able to facilitate learner-learner and learner-instructor interactions. We also have to provide an organized learning environment to help students navigate through the course; in addition, provide opportunities for students to collaborate, be reflective and continuously reinforce their sense of presence (Laureate Education Inc, n.d.).

References:

Laureate Education Inc. (Producer). (n.d.a). Online learning communities [Video podcast]. Baltimore, MD: Palloff and Pratt.

Saragina, P. (1999). Creating an online learning community. Retrieved from http://www.ion.uillinois.edu/courses/instructors/guestlectures/saragina/index.asp

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Wilcoxon, K. (2011). Building an online learning community. Retrieved from http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/761/building-an-online-learning-community

Online Instructional Strategies

For the coming eight weeks I will be sharing on my blog best practices, reflections and strategies about online instruction.