July 15th, 2016

Five Ways to Help Students Succeed in the Online Classroom


online student at laptop

More and more students are flocking to the online classroom for the convenience of earning college credits from the comfort of their home. However, many of these students are ill-prepared for the dedication and discipline needed to be successful in the online environment. Oftentimes students have misconceptions concerning the rigor of online courses, and they often underestimate the amount of time and discipline necessary to complete assignments, discussions, quizzes, and projects. Therefore, it is important for the instructor to set the tone of the course to help students succeed. So how do you help your students succeed in the online classroom?

  1. Provide Detailed Instructions and Anticipate Questions. Ensure all instructions are easy to follow. Provide step-by-step instructions and ensure no detail is overlooked. Do not assume students will be able to read between the lines, rather provide students with every detail to complete the assignment, participate in discussions, navigate the course, etc. Consider the possible questions students may ask about the materials and answer them before students have an opportunity to ask. Provide these answers within the course instructions and course announcements.
  2. Post Announcements. Remain present in the course by posting announcements. At the very least, post an announcement each week to wrap-up the previous week and let students know what to expect in the upcoming week. If possible, try to post at least two announcements per week. Announcements provide an opportunity to do some housecleaning. Provide reminders, clarification, and overviews to help engage and motivate students and helps them see that you’re involved in their learning.
  3. Provide Examples and Rubrics. Again, to minimize questions and confusion, provide students with examples of the larger assignments in the course. If it is an essay or a presentation, give students an example to show them how to do it. Quality examples from previous students in the course can be particularly helpful. Just be sure to get permission from that student. Providing detailed instructions and an example goes a long way in ensuring students know the expectations of a given assignment. Additionally, provide rubrics for all assignments, including discussions. If students know how they will be evaluated they are more likely to complete the work properly. Furthermore, rubrics will minimize questions concerning point deductions and grades earned.
  4. Utilize Differentiated Instruction. All students learn differently, and students in an online classroom are no exception. Provide students with the multiple opportunities and formats for learning, including videos, audio lectures, and project choices that help engage and encourage learning for all students and preferences. Differentiated instruction promotes learning for all students, as well as encourages engagement in the online classroom.
  5. Encourage Peer Support and Engagement. Encourage students to communicate with their peers. Peer communication allows students to develop a network of support, rather than have students only rely on the instructor. Allow students an opportunity to get to know one another in an introductory thread, and encourage students to connect throughout the course. Online learning can be lonely, but it does not have to be. Students can learn to develop a community in the online classroom.

Amy Hankins has worked in education for 10 years, including online learning for eight years. Currently she is working as a full-time instructor for an online university.

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