Student preparedness and support in online learning
Josh Rushing July 13, 2012EDLD 871 – Dr. Luke Dowden
Challenges to Online Learning “Due to the rapid expansion of online learning programs educators need to re-evaluate traditional pedagogical strategies and find ways to integrate curriculum, technology, community, and learning in a manner which supports student motivation, self- regulation and retention in virtual learning environments” (Baird & Fisher, 2005, pg.91).
District Challenges Online learning is a great resource that can offer students opportunities in education that were previously non-existent. Four areas of concern in implementing online learning in our district are:1. Technical Requirements2. Student Support3. Learning Styles (Making sure all classes support all learning styles)4. Tutoring Services
Technical Requirements Students must have the right technological equipment to be able to take an online class. The basic components are a computer, Internet access, and basic software and plug-ins. Depending on the teacher of the class, more items may be needed. The following link is from Franklin University. This link lays out minimum requirements for their online classes. The district may want to review these requirements and use them as an example when developing our technical requirements. http://www.franklin.edu/online-learning/technical- requirements/
Student Support Students need to be provided ample support in online environments. The orientation process should be very thorough and put the student’s mind at ease. The Florida Virtual School (FLVS) uses an orientation process that gets students totally prepared for their online courses. FLVS refers to their orientation as “Quick Start”. Below is a link to the orientation page for FLVS http://www.flvs.net/areas/studentservices/Pages/New StudentsOrientation.aspx
Student Support (cont.) Within the “Quick Start” Orientation are all the tools students need to get started. Some of the features are a orientation video, Internet safety, student activity information, technical support, resources, etc. FLVS does a great job of taking the anxiety out of the student about online learning. The success of FLVS in educating students online is a great resource to model our district’s program after. A thorough orientation process would be a great thing for our district to use as a tool to help students understand what is expected of them in an online learning environment.
Student Support (cont.) “Students in an online course should feel comfortable communicating and expressing themselves. It is important for retention that online students feel connected with the course, its instructor and fellow classmates. Affiliation is a key to the development of a learning community” (Palloff & Pratt, 2001, p. 47). The orientation process is just one tool that can help students feel comfortable in online learning.
Student Support (cont.) Teachers must develop a community atmosphere within their virtual classrooms. Virtual learners need to feel as if they are part of the group. Each group member must feel a role and understand what their role adds to the group dynamic. “A critical issue in retention in online courses is related to a students sense of belonging. The group dynamics of online learning are an important factor in creating a safe and comfortable learning environment” (Braxton, et. al., 1997).
Learning Styles Every child learns differently. Online courses must support the difference in learning styles of every child in their classroom. Virtual learning presents a challenge for teachers in reaching every student’s learning style. Virtual teachers must vary how they present information to their students. Using different activities, teaching strategies, and assessments will offer students the opportunity to find their favorite way to learn.
Learning Styles (cont.) “A variety of learning strategies should be included in online instruction to accommodate individual differences and learning styles” (Cassidy, 2004, pg. 4). Once an online teacher is able to identify every students learning style they may need to go back and tweak certain elements in the course. The teacher may also look at using group work to compliment learning styles of different students.
Tutoring Services Tutoring services must be available to all students in an online course. Without a teacher to consult with during lessons students can become confused very quickly. Teachers need to prioritize times strictly for remediation and helping students that are struggling. This can be achieved through e-mailing, chat boxes, Skype sessions, telephone conferences, etc. Students need to know that there is always help available to them.
Tutoring Services (cont.) The district may want to contract with an online tutoring company to give students another resource. www.tutor.com offers online tutoring help everyday, all day from a professional tutor. By contracting with the company the district will ensure constant help for students and take some of the workload off the virtual teachers. Tutor.com has special deals they work out with schools/districts that gives evrry student a log-in ID and password that will instantly connect them to help. The website also has an app for iPhones and iPads.
Conclusion The district should utilize online learning as much as possible. The benefits of online learning are immense and the amount of people taking online courses is growing annually. The district should take great pride in implementing virtual courses that are dynamic, user-friendly, and offer students maximum support. By applying some of the tools found in this presentation, the district will be able to offer students opportunities they have never had before.
References Baird, D. and Fisher, M. (2005). Online learning design that fosters student support, self-regulation, and retention. Campus-Wide Information Systems, 22 (2), 88-107. Braxton, J., Shaw Sullivan, A. V., & Johnson, Jr., R. M. (1997). Appraising Tintos theory of college student departure. In J. C. Smart (Ed.), Higher education: Handbook of theory and research, Vol. 12. New York : Agathon Press. Cassidy, S. (2004). Learning Styles: An Overview of theories, models, and measures. Educational Psychology, 24(4), 419-444. Palloff, R., & Pratt, K. (2001). Lessons from the cyberspace classroom (p. 47). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
References Quick Start Orientation. Florida Virtual School. Retrieved on July 13, 2012 from http://www.flvs.net/areas/studentservices/Pages/ NewStudentsOrientation.aspx Technology Requirements for Online Learning. Franklin University. Retrieved on July 13, 2012 from http://www.franklin.edu/online- learning/technical-requirements/ Tutor.com for schools. Tutor.com. Retrieved July 13, 2012 from http://www.tutor.com/schools