Each week we meet via Twitter for #IOLchat to discuss current issues related to online learning. Participants include students, instructors, advisors, counselors, eLearning companies, schools, publishers, and instructional designers.
Many students enter their first online course with a preconceived idea of what the experience will be like, but it’s hard to anticipate all of the requirements of online delivery before getting started. First-hand experience is often the best teacher.
This week we explored common myths and realities of online learning in higher education with a goal to help prepare tomorrow’s students for success. Here’s a summary of the chat:
Forming Expectations of Online Learning
- Some students have taken online courses in high school, which may or may not lead to realistic expectations of online courses at the college level.
- Students may have preconceptions based on their previous experience with or preferences for the course topic.
- Students learn a lot about courses, face-to-face and online, from their peers, which can influence expectations.
- Many students underestimate how much time they’ll need to devote to an online course.
- Some first-time online students expect a self-paced experience, “send it all in when done with no due dates.” Anytime, anyplace can be misinterpreted.
Advice for New Online Students
- “Good time management is essential.” For online students, as well as anyone transitioning from high school to college level courses, no matter the delivery method.
- You’ll need solid learning and organizational skills to do well in an online class.
- Expect to make “adjustments to university demands,” as well as to online course requirements.
- Be proactive: “be in charge of your own success, contact the instructor for help, print out that syllabus, get/stay ahead.”
- “Don’t fear it, but if you are new to online education, look for support early on from peers, instructor, tech support, etc.”
Strategies for Supporting Students
- Be aware of “first timers” in an online course and provide them with extra support and resources.
- Coordination and communication needed between K-12 and higher education administrators and instructors.
- Provide “weekly reminders – what we’ve done, what’s coming up that is due” – to help students stay on track.
- Foster a sense of community in which new students feel like they are part of the course, working alongside peers.
- Communication is essential – let students know what will be expected of them, before they enroll.
- Provide avenues for preparation before taking an online course – self-assessments for readiness, orientations, tutorials and introductory modules.
- Develop activity and assignment options for different learner preferences.
- Ensure students have responsive technical support beyond their instructors.
- Get feedback from all involved: students, instructors, administrators.
Ideas for Research and Practice
- Are there differences in levels of success in online courses between first-year and second-year college students?
- Should there be pre-requisite skills courses? Students would cover technical requirements of online learning before enrolling in first course. Or would this be a hassle that would deter potential students?
- “Social media could be used to raise awareness of the actual course demands … have a hashtag for an ongoing course and encourage students who want to enroll to check it out.”
This week’s read-aheads:
- 10 Myths About Online Learning (and Truths About Each Myth) from The Michigan Community College Association‘s Virtual Learning Collaborative
- Mapping Success: Essential Elements of an Effective Online Learning Experience from Danielle Hathcock, Faculty Focus
- Jumping into Online Learning: A Reality Check from Steven Starks, DistanceAdvising.com
- The Myths of Online Learning from John Ebersole, Forbes.com
Image credit: tjscenes, Flickr, CC-BY