eLearning is the new black. Learning online, in solitude, however, seems to have also become the new black. Or is it? Perhaps it’s for monetary reasons or a lack of awareness but often it’s the very thing which causes online learning to fail. Humans, after all, are social and learn best when collaborating with others.
The benefits of e-learning
Advocates promote the idea of flexibility and interactivity of e-learning. Critics fear the loss of the personal aspects of the teaching and learning experience and favour more traditional methods. However, more often than not the teaching environment will call for teachers and trainers to seamlessly integrate a number of strategies, allowing students more flexibility and choice.
OK, that sounds lovely. but is it suitable for everyone?
Students learn best by experiencing an environment of collaboration, collegiality, critical thinking and support, all of which are conducive for learning. The implication in this viewpoint is that students are provided with tools to help them better understand their strengths and weaknesses while at the same time making a genuine effort to help them succeed. The internet has the potential to significantly help in this regard.
The following factors must be taken into consideration when designing an online teaching environment and on deciding how much of the delivery will be online:
- Computer and internet skills
- Student self direction
- Cultural factors
- Time allocation
- Learning needs and learning preferences
It is important to note that students who are learning online need to be supported by teachers and have the capacity to communicate effectively without other class members. Teachers should promote interaction with students and a sense of belonging to ensure positive outcomes for online delivery.
- Expect online facilitation to be more work than a traditional course, because it probably will be
- Don’t expect to be a successful online facilitator just because you’re a great ‘face to face’ (F2F) one. Look for some good professional training in online facilitation.
- Be prepared to receive and immediately respond to vast amounts of e-communication from your students
- Know the online resource inside and out
- Get very comfortable with technology
- Plan for the unexpected
Give your students the capacity to apply their knowledge to real scenarios
- Allow students to learn by making decisions and mistakes
Provide plenty of forum for discussion as this allows for collaborative, constructivist learningRole model the behavior you wish others to use.
Use irony and humor with care as it does not always come across online as you might have intended.
Provide ongoing (and often repeated) guidance on ‘what to do next’
Let others know when you will be offline for extended periods of time.
Help focus the chatters
Facilitation is the combination of knowledge and practice. So practice, practice, practice.
What is the difference between Fully facilitated, self paced and blended learning?
Self paced- Means that the unit is not fully facilitated (or at all). This is not recommended for VET learning.
Fully facilitated- Means that the course is fully facilitated by a trained professional. This is highly recommended for VET learning.
Blended learning- Combines two or more learning media to drive learning outcomes. For example, some of the material might be delivered in the workplace and some online.
How can I encourage participation in discussion forums?
Phrase your discussion contributions in ways that will encourage further responses from participants, and draw connections between participants’ comments. Try to avoid “over-facilitating.” You don’t need to answer every question and settle every point! You may want to wait a day or two before you address comments to give students an opportunity to respond to one another. When you do post messages, try to push the discussion forward by raising additional questions.
Watch this video for more advice on facilitating discussion forums: