In the 2009 report, Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies, the Department of Education reported that “on average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction.”
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“One of the biggest barriers to online learning is our inability to respond in the moment, unless we happen to be on live chat or video, which is really rare in most of the online learning world,” says Rick Van Sant, associate professor of education at Ferris State University.
Learning research indicates that people learn better in the presence of some emotional connection—to the content or to other people. Creating this emotional connection is particularly challenging in the online classroom, where most communication is asynchronous and lacks many of the emotional cues of the face-to-face environment. Nevertheless, it is possible to do, with a learner-centered approach to teaching and a mastery of the technology that supports it, says Rick Van Sant, associate professor of education at Ferris State University.
Instructors have a myriad of technological tools available to enhance online instruction, such as blogs, wikis, and streaming audio and video. I have been particularly interested in streaming audio and video to deliver course content in a dynamic mode that captures the energy of the traditional classroom presentation while taking advantage of the Web’s functionality to combine text, audio, and images. However, given the significant time it takes to design and create a presentation for streaming over the Web, I have wondered whether the time commitment is justified by the learning benefit for students. Do bells and whistles enhance learning online?
Like many new online instructors, Laurie Lorence, an English instructor at San Diego Community College, initially created online courses that were fairly linear and mostly text. She quickly realized that such an approach would not work for her students, particularly those in her pre-college learning courses.
We are bombarded with information about online course supplements and the newest interactive multimedia components, all touted as the best approach to engage today’s learners in the online environment. Dedicated practitioners puzzle over how, when, and where to incorporate multimedia within their online courses and further agonize over the potential effects of choosing not to do so.
Regardless of the size of course enrollments, the key to a successful teaching and learning experience for both the learner and instructor is communication. Clearly defining and communicating the expectations will address the uncertainly of what role and responsibility is required of each participant.
Here are a few tips to ensure your students have a positive online learning experience.
Personal introductions. By using the personal introductions of students, an instructor can get to know his/her students better, thus allowing interaction with individual students in a more personal manner. When students see that the instructor is reaching out to them on a personal basis, it helps establish a rapport and put the student at ease.
Teachable moments, those special times when students are most ready and willing to learn, are traditionally considered unplanned opportunities. But should teachable moments be treated like unexpected gifts or can they actually be set in motion with a little advanced anticipation and planning by the instructor?