Certificate in Online / eLearning Instruction- 4150

Week 3 Paper

Challenges and Opportunities of eLearning Challenges and Opportunities of eLearning

“Teachers who are effective in the face-to face environment can be effective as online teachers, but it is not automatic, and it does not happen overnight.” (Boettcher & Conrad, 2016, p. 4) “Some students may find that in spite of dreams of earning a degree in their pajamas, being an online student isn’t actually for them.” (Hicks, 2015, p. 1) With the rapid growth of online learning both instructors and learners are encountering some challenges and opportunities, this paper discuss both of these concepts.

Instructor Challenges:

  • Getting to know your students: It is hard to get to know your learners when you do not interact face-to- face. Body language is said to account for over fifty percent of communication, so how will I know that my learners are paying attention, was my question. One way to manage this is the instructor could make an appointment to skype and or telephone the learners at the beginning of the course, to get to know the learner and allow the learner time to get to know the instructor. Also. providing a discussion forum where learners can introduce themselves to other learners at the course. This will set the stage for the learner, allowing them to be comfortable enough to engage in the conversations and interact with fellow learners. (Boettcher & Conrad, 2016)
  • Technology and Digital Divide: With technology changing so quickly and the workplace containing different generations of learners, knowing which learner is comfortable with the technology being used is a challenge for the instructor. Learners that are comfortable with the technology could become bored when instructions are too long and those who do not know the technology could become overwhelmed and will give up. This could be managed by having video and written tutorials with step by step instructions, along with providing a forum where the learner that is knowledgeable in the technology can help the novice learner. The instructor could also explore if the learning institution provides online technical support to the (Higley, 2014, p. 3)
  • Keeping Engagement: How do instructors keep the learner motivated to learn and participate in the course. Karla Gutierrez stated “…in order to incorporate an eLearning programme effectively communication is the key” (Gutierrez, 2012, p. 1) Clear communication about what the course is offering, how it will assist in the advancement of their career, what will they be able to do with this education. Develop a course that is well defined, with clearly written goals and objectives so the learner understands the expectations of course. Provide communication between instructor to learner, and learner to learner using discussion boards, frequent feedback, asking for opinions or suggestions. Group projects or study project invite the learners get to know each other and learn from each other. When a learner finds a friend in the class, or a support group can lead to the learner being more engaged. (Gutierrez, 2012)
  • Effective Evaluations: Without visually seeing the learner how can an instructor be sure that the learner has learned the goals and objectives and is ready to carry the learning forward. Evaluations must be provided frequently throughout the course so there is time to correct the learning if necessary and not just at the end when the course is completed. This should be accomplished with a variety of projects such as games, discussion boards, rubric or reflection papers where learners are able to show that they have learned the course objectives
  • Course Content: How does an instructor create a course that is engaging to all learners that meets all the requirements of the organization. When developing a course the instructor needs to “…identify the core concepts, questions, and performance goals for a course” (Boettcher & Conrad, 2016, p. 55) The instructor will then have responsibility to guide the learner through the course by providing learning opportunities, such as projects, that support the learner to learn the course goals and objectives. At the end of the course the learner should be able to explain how they “…plan on using the learning experiences.” (Boettcher & Conrad, 2016)

The Learner Challenges:            

  • Self- Discipline: In a class room, it is easier to keep up the pace when the instructor is present, but with on- line learning there are assignment deadlines and a learner that “lacks self-discipline, it is unlikely they will be motivated to self-study.” (Pappas, 2015, p. 6) The learner should be encouraged to check with the instructor if they have concerns or questions, or use the online forums to check if other learners have the same concerns.
  • Technology: Understanding how to use technology can be a learning curve for many learners, especially if they are a digital immigrant and did not grow up with technology at their fingertips. Instructors will need to provide the learner with a “learning environment that encourages collaboration” (Higley, 2014, p. 4) The learner will have the responsibility to connect with these learning communities, this will allow the learner to gain a better understanding of the technology, increase their own learning and acquire a better learning experience.
  • Remaining Engaged: When the learner is not in a face-to-face class room it is easy not to participate in the discussion forums and to only complete assignments. Learners will need to make themselves a schedule to log into the course frequently, “Logging onto the course home page consistently each week is associated with higher grades for students.” (Morrison, 2012, p. 2) Learners can increase their learning experience by participating in the discussion forums and reading other learners comments.

Instructor and Learner Opportunities:

  • Portable/Flexible: In on line courses the instructors are not tied to a conventional class room agenda, travel times to the workplace are decreased, so access to the course work increases. If the internet is available, then the class room is available. Learners benefit from this as well, as many learners are continuing to work or have families to take care of so they can read or work on assignments when it is convenient for them. “.. your audience is given the freedom to personally build their own learning schedule.” (Pappas, 2015)
  • Cost Efficient: This opportunity needs little explanation. Instructors will be able to accommodate more learners in their courses as there are no expenses to maintain classrooms or travel cost. Without tuition, books, living away from home costs or travel expenses learners will have the opportunity to continue their education. (Pappas, 2015)
  • It is Unrestricted: “With online learning location is no longer a barrier; neither are culture and nationality” (Pappas, 2015, p. 4) Instructors are able to create course that can be translated to any language and travel worldwide. So, if an instructor was creating a training manual then the same manual and resources could be used in any location by all employees. All learners would learn the same course content, no matter where you lived, ensuring that all employees would be aligned with the organizational goals and values. (Pappas, 2015)
  • It is Immediate: Instructors have immediate access to current resources and can share them quickly. “…once you update your eLearning course, your audience will have immediate access to the updated version.” (Pappas, 2015, p. 4) Learners do not have to wait six weeks for exam results to be mailed to them. The learner can go online and see the remarks as soon as the instructor posts them. If the exam is online the marks are immediate, the learner can then move on or correct any mistakes immediately, not six weeks later.
  • It Can Be Tailored: Instructors have the capability of tailoring the learning to fit all types of learners. With videos, podcasts, reading materials or translations there is something for everyone. Learners are not limited to one way of learning; they have the ability to experience the material a variety of ways, this increases the chances that the class material will understood and learning will happen. (Pappas, 2015)

Advantages of eLearning Over Face to Face Learning:

  • The advantages of eLearning other that the cost or flexibility is the ability for the employer to tailor the education to fit the needs of the organization. (Pappas, 2015) Allowing for the employee to gain education while not missing time from work or time away from their families, employees can study and complete the courses together or alone at a convenient time. Professions such as nursing use online courses to teach new skills, provide orientation to a unit or to keep updated on the best practice guidelines. With courses, such as learning a new language or earning a university degrees being accessible online, many of the barriers have been removed, allowing more people to advance in their chosen profession.

Key Best Practices for Instructors and Learners:

From the Online Teaching Survival Guide (second edition)

  • Be present: Both Instructors and Learners need to be present in the learning. The instructor has the role of being the coach, mentor, and cheerleader and the learner needs to be responsible and accountable for their learning.
  • Be available and ask questions: The instructor needs to be available to the learner and provide times when they are available. The learner needs to ask questions and get clarity about what is expected of them.
  • Technology: Instructors need to think digital and have course content accessible through a variety of media. At all times throughout the course there needs to be further support in the way of videos, frequently asked questions, written instructions and contact available by phone. This will increase learner engagement as they will feel supported and not become frustrated and want to quit the course. The learner will be required to spend the time to know and understand the technology.
  • Clear Communication: For instructors, they will need to provide a syllabus that is available to the learner that contains expectations of the learner and when the instructor can be contacted. For the learner, they will have to invest the time to read and understand the expectations and commit to the learning.
  • Discussion Posts: The instructor, should prepare discussion posts with open ended questions that invite the learner to comment. The learner will have the responsibility of participating in the discussion posts. Gaining knowledge from other learners and sharing what they have learned.
  • Frequent Feedback: The instructor should provide frequent feedback to the learner about how they are progressing through the course, not just at the end of the course. The learner will be responsible to listen to the feedback, ask questions, correct any learning then continue to build on the learning.
  • Customize Personal Learning and Core Concepts: Instructors will have to create projects that align with how the learner is going to apply the learning and the course core concepts. The learner will have to take an active part in the learning and be able to share what they have learned with the instructor and other learners. This can be done by talking, presenting projects, analyzing and asking questions.
  • Use Synchronous and Asynchronous Activities: The instructor, should provide a mixture of individual and group activities. Group activities can be done in real time using media such as google documents, live chat or skype. The learning can be shared with the classroom using links to blogs, webpages or Facebook pages created by the learner, then be encouraged to provide feedback and comments about the learning activities on the social media sites. The learner, will be responsible to share their individual learning and comment on what they have learned from fellow class mate’s projects.
  • Build an Online Community: The instructor, will need to provide communications spaces for learners to engage with other learners, and talk with the instructor. This interaction will create a place for the learner to share what learning that they have done. The learner will need to join and contribute to these community spaces, which can provide a deeper sense of meaning to their learning.
  • Final Closing: The instructor will have to create a final activity that brings together all the learning that has been done reminding the learner what the core concept were. The learner will have to state how they are going to carry the learning forward and understand what knowledge they are taking with them from the course.

In closing, the instructor and learner both have opportunities and challenges with an eLearning course. Collaboration, engagement and a being present at the course, are the three main take away messages that I have learned. Collaboration between instructor to learner, learner to learner need to occur “…providing learners with the opportunity to collaborate, share and create will increase the learner’s use of various technologies, enhance their eLearning experience,” (Higley, 2014, p. 4) Engage in the course by participating in the discussion boards and group activities, become part of the online community of learners. Be present in the course by being interested in what is happening, ask questions, share learning and prepare to carry the learning forward.

 

References

Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. M. (2016). The Online Teaching Survival Guide (second ed.). San Francisco CA: Jossey-Bass.

Gutierrez, K. (2012). How to Attack Your 5 Toughest eLearning Challenges. Retrieved from http://info.shiftelearning.com/blog/bid/212785/How-to-Attack-Your-5-Toughest-eLearning-Challenges

Hicks, K. (2015). 7 Tips for Being a Successful Online Student. Retrieved from http://www.edudemic.com/7-tips-successful-online-student/

Higley, M. (2014). e-Learning: Challenges and Solutions. Retrieved from https://elearningindustry.com/e-learning-challenges-and-solutions

Morrison, D. (2012). Five-step Strategy for Student Success with Online Learning. Retrieved from https://onlinelearninginsights.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/five-step-strategy-for-student-success-with-online-learning/

Pappas, C. (2015). Advantages and Possible Limitations of Online Learning. Retrieved from https://elearningindustry.com/advantages-and-possible-limitations-of-online-learnin

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