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.
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
The George Washington University. Establishing expectations. Retrieved from
[Untitled Image of Computer Monitors Shaking ]. Retrieved from March 21, 2013 from
[Untitled image of a multitasking woman]. Retrieved March 21, 2013 from


6 Responses to Setting Up an Online Learning Experience

  1. Dalia,

    I liked that you mentioned Boettcher and Conrad’s (2010) point about “establishing a weekly rhythm for the course which sustain students’ engagement with the content”. One of the reasons I think the courses through Walden are so successful is the consistent, weekly schedule. As every course begins, I can almost always expect to have a discussion post due on Wednesday and an assignment due on Sunday. This really allows me to plan my schedule as I factor in family, work, life, events, in-laws, etc. Adult online learners especially, as you said, need to have these clear expectations in advance for each course. It’s even better when there are multiple courses in the same program, if the course schedule stays consistent!

    – James

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

  2. cfentonedu says:

    Dalia, I love the juggling graphic and your associated information that illustrates the challenge for adult learners to balance multiple tasks and role responsibilities. Communicating clear expectations can certainly help minimize frustrations associated with their role as a learner.

    Celeste Fenton

    • daliahanna says:

      Thanks Dr. Fenton; this graphic reminds me about how I feel sometimes. And I appreciate having clear expectations in the course which is helping me in organizing all aspects of my life. Dalia

  3. Carmen Daly says:

    Hi Dalia,
    you stated, “in the online learning environment students come to the course and they want to be successful”. I completely agree and the way to make that possible for students is setting clear expectations. Edudemic states (2012) states:”every course site should lay out exactly how students are expected to communicate with one another and the instructor as well as the specifics of the activities and assignments they’ll need to complete on a weekly basis.”Establishing this in the beginning, will reduce confusion and will allow students to figure out how the coursework will fit into their lives.

    Edudemic (2012). 20+ tips from the most effective online teachers. Retrieved from:

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