Anyone who has facilitated an online course knows the biggest challenge isn’t grading assignments or figuring out how to use the discussion forums. It’s engaging learners. E-learning is a mixed bag of ages and learning styles, and the challenge for instructors is helping students get the most from a course as possible. Ability with technology has less to do with success in an online course as you may think. In Elizabeth Gruenbaum’s article, “Predictors of Success for Adult Online Learners: A Review of the Literature ,” students at the graduate or undergraduate level has more to do with it. Age doesn’t matter much either. Older learners work just as hard as younger ones. Gruenbaum’s lengthy article, which appeared in the February 2010 issue of eLearn Magazine , is rich with insight into how facilitators can anticipate how a learner will fare in a course. Read the whole thing for details, but here are a few takeaways on how to support all online learners:
- Provide reflective prompts – encourage them to stop and think about the material
- Make specific and clear syllabi and assignments with progressive calendar deadlines – seeing all the tasks laid out helps learners check them off the list
- Provide students specific performance feedback on a timely basis – respond asap on activities to keep the momentum of the course going
- Heavy participation in discussion boards – go beyond a short response: request clarification, reinforce students’ ideas, correct misunderstandings, and ask for consensus within areas of disagreement
Also make sure to read the comments section of Gruenbaum’s article, where online instructors share their experiences.