Setting Up an Online Learning Experience

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Preparing to launch an online learning experience for the first time that is engaging for your students and allows you to focus on building knowledge and competencies within learners as well as a network of mutual respect through the sharing of ideas and perspectives takes a lot of time and preparation before the course begins. A facilitator must first consider ways to design the course to be engaging, but also considerations must be made toward choosing the right tools that will complement the learning experience. There are many tools to consider, but with such a range of online tools that are available, it can become overwhelming to decide which tools to use. For the first online class, the best approach is to keep it simple (Boettcher& Conrad, 2010, p.57). After teaching that first class and becoming more comfortable with what to expect and gaining confidence in understanding how the technology can work within the course to achieve the course’s objectives, integration of additional online tools can be considered. In the first phase of a course, the goals are to launch the course and lay the groundwork for a learning community in which learners and faulty support one another in the accomplishment of the course goals (Boettcher& Conrad, 2010, p.10). The most important goals to achieve in the first few weeks of the course is to get acquainted with the learners, establish trust, and launch the learning community (Boettcher& Conrad, 2010, p.56). Most courses today have a diverse range of students concerning age ranges and varying skill levels. Marc Prensky (2001) spoke about this topic concerning digital natives and digital immigrants in our education system where today’s students, K through college, represent the first generation to grow up with new technology and have been surrounded by a multitude of tools of the digital age. These are the digital natives, but those that were not born into the digital age and adopted technology into their environment later in life are called digital immigrants. Keeping a course simple allows you to focus on the course’s objectives and minimizes the potential frustration a learner can have toward being hindered from learning by the complexity of technology in the course.

Within the first few weeks of a course as the facilitator works at getting acquainted with the learners, establishing clear and unambiguous guidelines about what to expect from the participants and what they should expect from the instructor will contribute toward a satisfying online experience (Boettcher& Conrad, 2010, p.55). This is important because as the instructor provides the students with a syllabus, they will have a clear understanding about the course as far as when the class will meet, how long the class will be, as well as how they will be graded. The students will also have an understanding about what the responsibilities are for the instructor toward teaching the course to the best of their abilities, when they will be available, feedback guidelines, timeliness of grades and what the performance responsibilities are for the learner based upon a criteria that has been established for the course. Establishing the course expectations and making everything available to them for review is essential toward ensuring a quality teaching and learning experience.

References

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

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon, MCB University Press, Vol. 9 No. 5. Retrieved from http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf

Online Learning Communities

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Sitting in a traditional classroom environment back when I first attended college allowed for me to make connections with other students that I could potentially construct ideas with and build knowledge together. As online communities continue to grow, Dr. Palloff and Dr. Pratt talk about how it is vital toward student success for the learners to make a connection to other students as they learn the ins-and-outs of this new environment. As the learner acclimates to understanding how a learning management system works, time needs to one set aside for students to make a connection with one another so they do not develop a sense of isolation. The power of a learning community is steeped in learner-to-learner engagement as they collaborate within the environment. Learning communities are established by bringing people together with a purpose and having a process in place for their development. An ideal learning environment will enable students to explore content together, challenge one another, give support and provide professional feedback.

Within the online environment, the facilitator will take on a role that is different from the traditional classroom teacher. To create an effective online learning community, the facilitator must be familiar with the technology being used and work at setting the tone for the learning experience they will have. The course should be easy to navigate with naming conventions and include a welcome letter to the participants. Since the first two weeks of the course is critical, the instructor needs to have a strong presence in the course to help resolve any issue or answer questions that come up. As the course gets underway, the facilitator should model the type of behavior for the students that he/she would like for them to embody during their time together.

During the course, the online facilitator will become a guide for the learners functioning in an equal capacity with them and avoid becoming the center of attention to their learning. During the orientation to the online experience for many new to online community students, the instructor or facilitator needs to clearly communicate how they will be supporting the students in the online environment. As the instructor communicates their part, he/she will also need to establish expectations for the student’s involvement as well as some ground rules for how the students will need to interact with one another in order to make the community a safe place to share knowledge and ideas as they help one another to grow academically. These rules of engagement will help to clarify how they are to engage, how often they will be expected to participate and how often the institution will expect learners to participate for official purposes.

The benefits of establishing instructor involvement, the rules of engagement, establishing a sense of community where the students connect with each other and understanding the expectations for the course can lead to a high level of student satisfaction, a positive perception of the learning experience as well as accountability toward one another that will empower them socially to succeed. With the growing number of students from different generations participating in online courses, it is important to remember the significance in balancing technology with the course’s intended outcomes. Most students will take to the integration of a variety of technology tools needed to develop their skills to accomplish their academic goals, but care should be taken not to include an abundance to technology simply for the sake of using technology. As the student grows within the online community and builds confidence while making connections, the feeling of being a part of something greater than themselves offers an ideal opportunity for transformation and self-awareness.

References

Laureate Education (Producer). (2010). Online learning communities [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Online Strategies – Welcome

My name is John Alexander Robinson. I am originally from New Jersey, but I currently reside in San Antonio, Texas with my beautiful wife and my daughter that is a 6 year old (going on 16) mini-me. I have been in the technology field since the early 1990s I have seen some pretty amazing advances in technology over the years. I started off my technology career training businesses, consumers and the military on Microsoft applications. Previous to my current position in a school district, I use to work for Gateway Computers as a Senior Trainer where I managed a territory and created computer-based learning demos for train-the-trainer sessions. I have always had a passion for technology and multimedia is my specialty. I learned a lot through those experiences that established the foundation for what I do today. My undergraduate degree was received from the University of Texas at San Antonio in Communication, Electronic Media and Distance Learning. I currently work as an Instructional Technologist for the Northside Independent School District with a student enrollment of over 105,000. I manage our department’s learning management system, the district’s mobile device program, I create instructional videos and get to test out new technology and write instructional training guides for district use. There’s a few other projects in there that help to keep a steady pace to a daily workload, but what I do I think is exciting and I love it! Welcome to my blog and I look forward to an engaging learning experience with you throughout this course.

Warm Regards,

John Robinson