I’ve taken a number of online courses. The majority of courses were conducted through an asynchronous environment, such as Blackboard. I had a number of issues with the courses, but my one major problem I had was that I didn’t feel as if I was learning along side other learners.
The teachers in the all courses had forums and mandatory discussion participation built into the course. The learners HAD to read all the posts and reply to some and add new posts.
The quality and the insights of the posts varied; but I did not find many posts that made me feel as if I was partaking in a fluid classroom discussion. This one limitation had a large impact on my enthusiasm for the course and the material.
The most successful course I took was one where the learners were placed into teams that lasted the entire semester. The team was mandated to work on a number of assignments throughout the course in addition to posting comments in the forum. All students were required to read posts from other teams.
While this did cut down on the amount of reading and posting required, the real benefit to me was working in the team. Earlier in the course my team members and I decided that we preferred to talk to each using Skype.
Skype provided all of with a quick and easy way to participate within the team. It felt very similar to working in small groups in a classroom. This experience made me wonder how, as a teacher, I could take the benefits of eLearning and create ways where students could more easily interact and feel a connection to the facilitator, the material and with other learners.
Here are a few ideas, aside from create a blended learning course that I came up with:
- Teams regularly communicate with the facilitator view Skype or Google+ Hangouts
- To save time, a different team member each week is assigned the task of creating daily (or every two days) summation of postings and it with the group.
- Representative from different groups meet once a week to discuss what each group has learnt. Again, a summation is presented to each group. The facilitator should join as many of these a possible.
- Learner biographies are nice, but headshots or pictures help all learners make a better connection with each other.
Using a few of these ideas can help learners connect with each, the material and the facilitator on a much more personal level than merely typing out answers and posting them on the LMS.
ELearning can and should be a positive experience that is equally engaging as learning the classroom. It is up to the facilitator to put forward a number of ideas to the learner to help have a positive eLearning experience.
Please feel free to add to comment and add more ideas to my list.