Online education is on the rise, and it is expected that increasingly people will be joining online learning and training courses because of the necessity to regular widen and upgrade knowledge and skills, and f the undeniable flexibility and benefits online mode is offering to learners.
Online teaching is a growing job market for educators, and it opens new career development opportunities. Managing online course delivery involves extensive use of technology, the access and communication with students all over the globe, and implementation of different teaching, learning, and assessments methods. Teaching online is still a new concept; it is quite different from the traditional classroom teaching, and it takes time and efforts for a teacher to adjust to the new way of course management and delivery
Setting online class and working environment
Online learners are physically distributed over different locations and most probably, over different time zones, and they will never be online the same time. It requires thorough planning of the online class environment. Online learners are different from the students in the classrooms:
- they manage learning process themselves,
- they resolve issues,
- they use any opportunity to ask questions, and
- appreciate the feedback on their progress.
It makes the preparation process for the course delivery very important. The online facilitator is responsible for ensuring that the learning environment is well-organized, stimulating and efficient. Teacher’s task is to prepare course outlines, the delivery and assessment schedules, and the course material which must be organized and visible to learners.
Online learners need to estimate the amount and type of work ahead to fit learning hours in their daily schedules. Surprises are not welcomed in online courses. To succeed in online studies, learners should have good time management skills, positive attitude towards learning and dedication to work hard.
Online teaching is a job which can be done from home, and it might require a serious adjustment for those educators who used to teach in the classroom environment. Setting a dedicated workspace is necessary to ensure that no distractions will interrupt the work. It would be advisable to make working area ergonomic, cozy and inviting supporting effective and quality work. Online courses are supported by technology, and the course facilitator should take care that the Internet connectivity is reliable and fast, the computer is properly configured and required software is installed.
Maintaining Regular Communication
One of the most often mentioned disadvantages of online learning is an isolation of learners. Active communication could help to melt the icy virtual learning environment and establish personal links with your learners.
Communication is critically important in the online classroom environment. At the beginning of the course, you should introduce yourself and give students a chance to introduce themselves. It will bring some human touch in the online class environment. Learners need to know what the best way is to contact course facilitator if any questions or issues arise.
The course facilitator should pay special attention to learners’ participation in the discussions because it indicates how comfortable a particular person is with the online learning environment and how effective is learning to experience.
The online course facilitator can encourage learners’ active participation in a variety of ways: posting questions for the discussions, assigning reading material, providing feedback on learners’ progress. Discussions can motivate students to explore additional learning material, and share it in the discussion forums. It is important to acknowledge learners’ efforts and provide positive, constructive, and encouraging feedback.
During online course delivery, the facilitator should regularly communicate with students by answering questions, providing feedback, advice, and instructions. Facilitator’s continuous presence throughout the learning process is critically important to assure learners’ motivation and reduce withdrawal rates.
Online learning activities can be supported by a range of communication tools – both synchronous and asynchronous:
- discussion forums;
- chat and instant messaging;
- audio and video conferences.
A virtual classroom represents an imitation of the traditional instructor-led classroom by integrating several tools: whiteboard, chat, audio conference or application sharing. It can be a very useful technique to bring all learners together at the same time for the synchronous lecture.
Importance of motivation
Motivation is a key success factor in online learning. Initial motivation of the learners can be lost quickly if they don’t understand the tasks, or can’t get answers to their questions. Students can be motivated by incentives such as extra points for active participation in the discussions, learning extra topics, or providing help to virtual classmates.
Online course facilitator should keep a close eye on student activities. Immediate actions are required if the student starts missing assignment and do not participate in the activities. It is important to start communication immediately and find out the issues causing demotivation and absenteeism. It may happen that a learner feels side-lined or overwhelmed by the amount of work. Sometimes, deadlines might have a negative impact on learner’s motivation. The experienced facilitator should always find ways to help the learner to proceed with the studies successfully.
Components of online course delivery
Usually, online courses are organized into sessions which can be accessed by learners at any time. And the typical components of an online course are:
- Starting event – to introduce the course goals and learning objectives, motivate learners, provide the overview of the learning activities and learning topics, suggest appropriate learning methods.
- The sequence of learning activities represents how course delivery will be organized and what learning methods will be used. Learning methods include reading, watching pre-recorded videos, working on practical tasks, participating in collaborative projects, sharing reflections and participating in discussions.
- Final assessment – is not a compulsory component since in some online courses learners’ performance evaluation takes place during course delivery. The assessment type depends on the course content, course Instructional design, and delivery mode. If the final assessment is scheduled, it can be a test, a project, or essay-type reflection.
- Feedback is usually done during the last session of the course. It is an important step which allows finding out the drawbacks of the course and fix them before the next delivery starts.
Overall, online education offers a wonderful opportunity for many people to join learning and training community. New delivery modes supported by technological advances make online education more comfortable, accessible, and effective. The success of online learning depends on educators who facilitate the course content and activities, support and guide learners towards success. Online teaching is an area which needs more exploration and attention to provide educators with effective training, instructional methodologies and sound recommendations.