Saturday, November 14, 2009

Student Readiness for Online Learning

If we make it they will come......
That may be the mantra of educational institutions concerning online courses. Many students sign up for an online course then find that they are ill prepared to learn in this venue. The may have a dial-up connection, or an older computer/software. They may not be comfortable using a computer. Perhaps they really don't have the organizational skills or the self-motivation that are so critical to learning online. This is not only frustrating for instructors, but of course the student who may provide negative feedback to an institution about their online experience. In addition the drop out rate or failure of students is a consideration

One of the things I've noticed when perusing different institutions is that some are offering information and quizzes that help potential learners evaluate whether online learning is a good fit for them. Some are just text based and others utilize some visuals. This got me to thinking how I could assist the institution I am working for to provide potential online students with important information about online learning. My plan is three fold. First a multimedia intro that gives a visual and audio overview of key elements with a suggestion to take the online quiz to see if they have what it takes. The quiz I'm formulating is based upon some of the best questions I've seen used at other institutions. It is self-scoring and will provide potential students with where their strengths and weaknesses are concerning online learning. The last component is that of an interactive mock-up of the institutions learning management system (LMS) to allow those who are interested to get a hands-on idea of how to navigate the online courses and how they are organized. It has been suggested that a mandatory course to familiarize new online students with the venue be included. This is up for discussion at present.

In addition I have suggested that all potential instructors be required to take an online course designed to evaluate their readiness to teach online. My plan includes having all current instructors take the same online course to make sure everyone has the needed skills and practices to be an effective online instructor. There is much debate on this proposal and some current instructors disagree that this is needed. Instructor readiness for online instruction will be something I want to explore and write about in the near future

The major challenge I face at this time is that not all courses have the same look and feel. The online program has grown and evolved without a lot of consideration given to an organized and professional appearance. I'll save this topic for my next posting.

Funding for institutions of higher education is shrinking and future funding, at least in Ohio will be measured by success points or the success of students. This in itself is reason to make sure students are prepared to learn online. It will be interesting to see if any other institutions follow a similar model as the one I am working on and how effective this will be in preparing or weeding out students who wish to learn online.