In this post, we will look at getting students online for the purpose of learning. Moving students online requires some training for the students and clarification for the administration in terms of what they need to share and this post addresses both of these concerns.
Traits of Successful Online Learners
Online learning requires highly autonomous students. This means students who are self-motivated and organized. They must have the drive to work to achieve a goal. The reason for this is that social relationships are warp in the online context and it is hard to rely upon friends for encouragement and even the teacher for structure.
Online students must also possess the ability to read and at times find instructions for completing assignments adhering to due dates etc. Text is a primary vehicle fo instruction in online learning and students who do not like to read and or are aural learners may have a hard time in the context.
Perhaps the most important trait online learners need to possess is the willingness to ask help from the teacher or IT staff. It is difficult to survive online if a student is too shy to ask for help when they are confused. Again, this has to do with the inability to socialize with peers adequately online. Without the initiative to call out for help students will quickly become overwhelmed and lost.
These traits mentioned above are traits that students should possess before studying online. It is difficult if not impossible to develop these abilities while studying online. It is also equally challenging for the teacher to try and teach these skills. This means that online learning is not for all students.
To determine if students are ready for online learning it may be necessary to assess their skill set before online studying. Assessing study skills, time management, etc can at least help to flag students who may be at risk.
Tools for Online Learning
The tools for online learning are rather obvious but sometimes students do not seem to understand this. For example, a steady internet connection is necessary. This seems obvious but sometimes I have seen students try to study in public places are in a noisy home with many competing devices on the network.
There are also things to consider about the hardware. Students must have some sort of way to back up their data. This can be cloud storage or an external hard drive. Many students have computers that crash and leaves them without there assignments. This can be avoided for as little as $10 for a decent thumb drive.
Students also need to have the browser that your site supports as well as specific plugins for individual courses (adobe reader, Zotero, etc). However, be careful with adding more and more software as it can lead to difficulties for students who lack the technical knowledge or technology.
The orientation to online at your school should deal with all the ideas addressed above along with the traditional topics your school deals with during their orientation.
In addition, you need to lay down expectations about communication, academic integrity, and the time commitment of online learning. Other topics include using the LMS, study tips, as well as handling online assessments.
Generally, the orientation is fully online. However, if the program is new it can be fully face-to-face or a hybrid model. This is because a new program may want to focus on students who are on-campus to work out the bugs and kinks of starting a new program. If you go live all over the world without any preparation it could lead to a lot of surprises.
Preparing students for online learning has a lot to do with the students being prepared beforehand. Online learning works for those with the discipline and motivation to work independently. If a student lacks this trait it doesn’t matter what the training covers.