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.
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