Kristin McDonald is a professor and Associate Chair of Human Services and Sociology at Post University
As the education landscape continues to shift, the demand to adopt online learning platforms is at an all-time high. Online learning provides students with the flexibility and self-paced options that they are seeking. Study after study reveals that online learning results in higher retention rates and graduation rates.
As technology advances and we continue to function in a virtual world, students are looking for a meaningful online learning experience that may be new to many institutes of learning. Regardless of the need for eLearning, how do you make the jump and feel confident in your online learning platform? Check out these helpful tips to consider as you set up and manage your online learning platform.
Once you’ve made the case for adopting an online learning platform and selected a platform that meets your needs, you will be facing your first challenge—deciding how to develop your content or courses and how to implement your eLearning platform. Some folks opt to outsource to third-party developers who have expertise in instructional design. Others form in-house teams who are available to support faculty and staff in daily tasks.
Do Your Homework
Once all the players are at the table, make sure there is a demand for your course. Regardless of your decision around the development process, having a roadmap for your course and centering your development around learning outcomes will make the process effective and successful. Your roadmap will support you in starting the process.
Supporting Learners and Instructors
Even though many of us have adapted to technology in most aspects of our lives, you must be sure to provide support to all users before your learning platform goes live.
One important option to consider is offering on-demand user support through a chat window or support line so issues can be addressed in real time.
Most online learning platforms also create opportunities for peer engagement. However, without proper onboarding, many of these features are overlooked. Similarly, many instructors often only use the most basic functions.
With proper training, instructors can fill their toolbelt with strategies to engage students and meet a variety of learning styles. Offering regular training sessions and a library of on-demand tutorials can help both students and instructors gain confidence in navigating your online platform.
While instructors and learners will access the content through the online learning platform, you may consider limiting some features and permissions. Most learning platforms afford the opportunity to create a master copy of your course that is accessible only to administrators. This is where you would create the content including any assignments, date releases, or grade calculation formulas. Once the master shell is built, it can be duplicated each time you are running the course. In those individual copies, you may want to limit anything that is not vital to teaching the content. This will reduce the likelihood of any errors or major changes. If instructors or learners make too many changes, you may not be able to accurately assess your learning outcomes which can limit your overall success with eLearning.
Creating a Community
While we all have become more comfortable in a virtual world, creating a sense of community is still a challenge. Many learners appreciate the flexibility of asynchronous learning, however, the desire for live interaction often lingers. Be sure that instructors are trained to effectively use options like discussion threads, video uploads, voice recording features, or even scheduling live drop-in sessions. You may also want to consider additional tools that complement your learning platform to enhance engagement among users, ultimately increasing course satisfaction.
Testing Your Content
When your online learning platform is ready to go live, you want to be sure that the content is relevant, and the learning experience is engaging. What better way to test your content than to engage real users? As you move through the development process, you may consider selecting colleagues, students, subject matter experts, or designers to move through the content posing as learners. You may also develop demo learner accounts to preview the learner experience as you build your content. Testing your content helps to address any concerns or confusion.
Once you have the green light, you will reach the most exciting point—going live! As your content transitions into the maintenance phase, remember that you can always go back and make changes. Consider including end-of-course surveys for both learners and instructors to make improvements as needed. Ultimately, allow your learning outcomes to guide you. If you find you are falling short, take time to reevaluate your content. Not only will this ensure you are successful in your instruction, but it will also continue to increase engagement, retention, and learner satisfaction.
Setting up and managing their online learning platform is just one of many new tasks instructors have taken on in the last few years. Find out more in our new Faces of Faculty report.