Online Learning

1. Online Learning Should Be Effective

In order for online learning to be successful, it must be effective.  Curriculum delivered online must be engaging, and must take into account the lack of face-to-face interaction (Anderson & McCormick, 2005).  In order to make online learning effective, activities must be planned in a way that will lead students to the desired goal. One way to do this is to remove extra useless design elements that do nothing to promote learning and instead concentrate on creating a rich, effective, learning environment. (Brown & Voltz, 2005) It is important to allow the students to be active in their learning instead of reactive in nature, by strictly following a prescribed learning road to take. There must be a focus on using computers and other forms of technology to facilitate learning.  Frustration by the student will impede the learning process so in order for online learning to be effective it must be functional, user friendly, visually appealing, and easy to navigate (Palloff & Pratt, 2007).  Students must learn with the computer, and not from it. In order to be effective, it must not be too complex in order to reach the desired objectives.

Anderson, J., & McCormick, R. M. (2005). Ten pedagogic principles for e learning. Onsight: Observatory for New Technologies and Education, Retrieved from http://insight.eun.org/ww/en/pub/insight/thematic_dossiers/articles/quality_criteria/equality2.htm.

Brown, A., & Voltz, B. (2005). Elements of effective e-learning design. The International Review of Research in Open and Distant Learning6(1), Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/217/300.

Palloff, R., & Pratt, K. (2007). Building online learning communities. (pp. 96-97). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

2. Online Learning Must Be Inclusive

Inclusion in this instance is meant not as community building, but more to address the needs of different types of learners. Online education must take into account the different ranges of the online learner. Just like in a traditional classroom, there are students who are at different levels academically due to cognitive, or physical limitations.  An online instructor must take into account students with learning disabilities as well as the gifted and must make an online environment that is inclusive, or in other words, differentiation online.  The online classroom lends itself to differentiation when set up correctly. A certain objective can be presented in a variety of ways online. Through pictures, or video as well as written word helps to cover the gambit of different types of learners. There must also be consideration fro students with disabilities (North, 2002).   A student who has a hard time hearing might have issues listening to a video clip that an instructor has put into a lesson. The instructor must remember to make adjustments so if that is the case, that student can participate as well. Busy, or over done webpages can confuse students who have a hard time processing information. Instructors should contact a student they believe are struggling from a possible disability to see what the area of concern is, which gives the instructor a better idea of how to move forward to help the student (Bart, 2009). Students may be more comfortable and become more outspoken in an online environment without the fear of ridicule, and therefore have a better educational experience than in a more traditional setting. However, some students may not thrive since learning online takes a certain amount of self motivation. In these cases, the traditional classroom may serve them better (Palloff & Pratt, 2007). When considered, these outliers can be taken into account to create a more inclusive learning environment.

Bart, M. (2009). Reaching online students with learning disabilities. Faculty Focus, Retrieved from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/reaching-online-students-with-learning-disabilities/.

North, R. (2002). Fostering inclusive online learning environments for students with learning disabilities. (Master’s thesis, Memorial University of New Foundland, St. Johns)Retrieved from http://www.mun.ca/marcomm/web/access/Intro_pages_to_folio.pdf.

Palloff, R., & Pratt, K. (2007). Building online learning communities. (pp. 6-7). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

3. Online Learning Should Encourage Community Within the Virtual Classroom

Having a classroom community is a vital part in a student’s educational journey. Be it online or in a traditional classroom, the relationships between the instructor and students, and between the students themselves help foster educational success. It is especially important to build a classroom community online since there isn’t any face to face interaction. It is on the instructor to begin the class by creating steps for community creation. Tools such as icebreakers and collaboration are some ways to give students the opportunity to get to know their  “classmates”.  Community is so important in order to create a positive learning environment, especially for those who are more introverted. These students have a tendency to be isolated, and since online learning can easily support isolation, it is important to establish community early on in the course in order to have a successful experience (Palloff & Pratt, 2007).

Achieving this goal can be challenging. Teachers can no longer look and see who is bored, or not understanding the material. Students must feel as though they are a part of  the community so that they are comfortable with asking questions and airing concerns. The tell tale sign of a successful classroom community online is whens students take conversation beyond just the academic and reach a personal level with their classmates, such as talking about work, kids, etc.… (Anderson & Misanchuk).

Palloff, R., & Pratt, K. (2007). Building online learning communities. (pp. 30-33). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Anderson, T., & Misanchuk, M. (n.d.). Building community in an online learning environment: communication, cooperation and collaboration. (Doctoral dissertation, Indiana University)Retrieved from http://frank.mtsu.edu/~itconf/proceed01/19.html

4. Online Instruction Should Be Motivating

A rule of thumb to take into consideration as a teacher in a traditional classroom is that if you have a lesson that engages the student and achieves the required outcome without technology; don’t add it for technology sake. The online classroom is based on technology so as an online educator instruction must be innovative to provide reasons why learning online and using technology is just as effective and relevant and that there is a reason and a benefit for the use of technology (Anderson & McCormick, 2005).   One such reason for the use of technology is the ability to give immediate feedback to students after an assignment. In online course quizzes or assignments can be given and once submitted, scored with immediate feedback with information about which problems or questions was missed with an explanation as to why and how to fix it. This type of feedback can be found in K12 online learning institutions such as Florida Virtual. With immediate feedback available students will become more engaged in the curriculum, they feel more involved in the learning process when they do not have to wait a week for summative assessments (Hiltz, Shen & Swan). Now there are some instances when formal assessments make take time to return to the students, but through classroom discussion boards, which are another example of innovative uses of technology in a classroom, students get peer feedback, suggestions, and support on a much broader scale than in a traditional classroom.  Being able to supply students with the individual tools needed to gain knowledge on their own terms, is another example of innovation. Not only are the immediate feedback from work essential, but also the communication between teacher and student. Unlike traditional classrooms, students can get specific attention from their teacher (Kim & Lim, 2003).   By using email and online communication may students who can be intimidated by an authority figure such as a teacher and help to build a relationship through technology.

Anderson, J., & McCormick, R. M. (2005). Ten pedagogic principles for e-learning. Onsight: Observatory for New Technologies and Education, Retrieved from http://insight.eun.org/ww/en/pub/insight/thematic_dossiers/articles/quality_criteria/equality2.htm.

Hiltz, S., Shen, J., & Swan, K. (n.d.). Assessment and collaboration in online learning. Retrieved from http://www-new.kent.edu/ehhs/dl/upload/assessment-and-collaboration.pdf.

Kim, D., & Lim, H. (2003). Motivation and learner characteristics affecting online learning and learning application. J. Educational Technology Systems31(4), 437. Retrieved from https://pantherfile.uwm.edu/simonec/public/Motivation retention articles/Articles/Lim_Kim_MotivationOnline.pdf.

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