By Pat Hartley, author of Labyrinth Learning’s QuickBooks Online
Online degree programs are gaining in popularity, with more than three million learners enrolled. But online courses can challenge even the most disciplined student. Creating courses that are meaningful, fresh, and engaging for online students is critical for their success. Recently I learned some strategies to help encourage engagement and participation in my online classes.
Know the Students’ Learning Styles
First, students should examine their learning style to determine if online courses are right for them. Various sites can help with this, including educationplanner.org and whatismylearningstyle.com. The assessments on these and other sites ask similar questions and then describe the user’s learning style along with some practices and techniques to provide the best experience. This activity can also provide valuable information to online instructors about their students’ needs.
Create Chatrooms to Encourage Communication
Online students may keep odd hours as they strive to fit in their coursework among job and family responsibilities. This can leave them feeling isolated from the instructor and other students. They may need help with a particular problem, or perhaps they just want to talk through a topic. Create a chatroom in your learning management system and encourage students to communicate with one another. Or, consider creating “study buddy” teams based on students preferred study times.
Schedule Flexible Remote Office Hours
Use remote meeting tools such as Join.me, Zoom, and others at scheduled times throughout the quarter or semester. These can greatly improve communication, and depending on how the tools are used, they allow everyone to put a face and a voice to the instructor and fellow students. This activity can also provide a sense of community so students do not feel so alone.
Use Examples Outside of the Textbook Material
Use examples of the topic in real-world situations, depending on your subject. Give one example, then have students provide examples of how this skill can or would be used in different environments or industries.
Create video content (such as Camtasia or Screencast-O-Matic). Many students are more engaged when watching a lecture much more than when reading lecture material. Have some fun with it!
We have successes and failure in online learning. By seeking out and trying new techniques to keep students engaged in a cloud environment while providing the critical concepts and skills, instructors can provide a positive experience that is highly conducive to success.