What Makes A Great Online Learner? Two Keys to Online Success
would like to thank Dr. Lori Hubbard Welsh for her insights on online
learning. She is the online instructor for instructional design courses
at Indiana University and for DSA's online class "The
Course Developer Workshop."
Like most other
tasks in your learner’s lives, taking an online
course can either be a great experience or – unfortunately – somewhere
on the other side of the spectrum. What can a learner do to make
There are several
strategies for increasing the chances that their experiences will
be positive. Two key practices are to
good communication and time management. Let’s take a look at
We hear this all the time – be a good communicator. What does
this mean, though, for an online learner?
Being a good communicator
in an online learning environment means to be both proactive and
assertive in communications with the
and other class participants. For example, standards should be determined
for “checking in” with the course. Should this be done
on a daily or weekly basis? Once the learners are aware of these types
of expectations, they should check in as often as needed to see if
there are any new developments in the class.
be encouraged to ask for clarification early in the process – for example, if something is not quite clear to them
or if they are having trouble understanding something. Since the instructor
is not receiving the non-verbal cues that might be obvious in a face-to-face
class, it’s difficult to realize there is a problem unless the
learners seek clarification until the issue is solved. If their question
wasn’t quite answered or if things are still a bit fuzzy, the
learner shouldn’t be afraid to be politely persistent with their
questions and concerns. Online instructors get many, many requests
and unfortunately sometimes a learner’s particular issue may
slip through the cracks. Sometimes the instructor may feel that a particular
issue has been covered when the learner actually requires additional,
Practicing good time management is a must for online learning. Online
courses often require more work than traditional face-to-face classes.
For example, it usually takes longer to read something from a computer
compared to traditional text. Learners may also need to spend time
getting used to the technology or downloading reading materials.
procrastinate when tackling the course assignments. They should be
encouraged to organize their time and
as they would for a job-related task – and to allow for the wiggle
room for the inevitable glitch (i.e. I went to upload my assignment
and found out that a storm knocked out the DSL!). Last, but not
least, most distance learners are employed full time while they are
online classes. They should be aware of the time commitments for the
course – and be confident that they can truly commit to the time
that is needed to get the most out of it.
These two tips can make a BIG difference in how the online experience
goes. Share these suggestions with your learners to ensure that they
have the best experience in your online course.
P.S. For the best in-depth experience at building and
running top-notch e-Learning courses, take a look at our new offering,
E-Learning Design Workshop.
Article © 2006
Darryl Sink & Associates, Inc