There has always been a debate as to whether people are really interested in taking a course or getting a qualification that’s fully online. According to the Babson Survey Research Group 2011 study, approximately 31% of college students were taking at least one online course (Allen & Seaman, 2011). I’m sure the figures are much higher now but it’s a good reminder of the future of higher education. Over the last few years I’ve learnt a lot of valuable lessons about delivering a qualification that solely delivered online and I thought I’d use this blog post as a chance to reflect on my experiences to date.
Facilitating the Master eLearning Course (MEC) is one of the reasons that I love my job here at B Online Learning. It involves co-ordinating and delivering the Master eLearning Course (part of a diploma qualification). MEC allows me to interact with other elearning professionals around Australia and Asia Pacific region. Some are at the beginning of their elearning journey and some a little more experienced. The MEC is a four month online course delivered via course modules, webinars, social media, and assessments. By the end of the course, students will be able to design, develop and deliver elearning.
Student motivation is probably my biggest nemesis. We can provide all the support in the world but if the student is not intrinsically motivated they may fail to complete. At the start of every course I like to have a chat with every student to find out their goals in taking the course and also to help them form a study plan. If you are embarking on an online course ask yourself how motivated are you? Are you prepared to allocate study time each week and make it a priority? Just because it’s online doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easier. I also find that a friendly phone call works best if students have ‘fallen off the wagon’. It reassures the student to let them know they can continue and it also gives them an opportunity to set some new learning goals.
Structure versus Self-Paced
For me this really depends on the content and the audience. Some online courses follow a distance learning model where the student is given the content and they can complete it whenever they wish. This type of model doesn’t work for me personally! I’m one of those ‘put it on the long finger’ type of people. I’ve taken this into consideration for the MEC course so students have two study options: (a) follow a strict 4 month timeline or (b) complete it by yourself over a 12 month period. Most people chose Option A. Unless you are highly motivated, it can be really hard to just fit in a course over a long period of time. You also lose your study momentum. I’ve been reading a lot about MOOCs lately and hearing how thousands, if not hundreds of thousands sign up for these courses but only a small number actually complete. I would love to hear some exact figures about this. So I’ve put my money where my mouth is and have signed myself up for a Gamification MOOC starting in a week! I want to learn more about gamification but also to see what it’s like on the student end for a change and use the experience to enhance my own practice. But the questions still remain…..am I motivated? …..can I allocate enough time to this? Time will tell.
Variety is the spice of life as they say! I’ve learnt the hard way that we need to add variety but too much variety can also be confusing. Make sure your learner guide or induction guide clearly state what student must attend or participate in e.g. gaining credits for attending webinars. We like to add a lot of variety to the MEC course through synchronous and asynchronous learning activities:
Using a variety of modes such as webinars and social media allow students to interact with others and take away that feeling of alienation when completing an online qualification.
We have excellent completion rates here at B Online Learning and it’s something that we are quite proud of. However, we are always learning and improving our course structure. My final advice as an online facilitate is to keep in regular contact with your students and also provide as much structure/guidance as you can! Then wait for those completion reports to come flooding through your inbox!
Allen, I. E., & Seaman, J. (2011). Going the distance: Online education in the United States. Babson Survey Research Group and Quahong Research Group, LLC.
Ruth is the Learning Director, B Online Learning. She holds a MEd. and is an Articulate Certified Trainer. Ruth has a passion for new technologies, social collaboration strategies and the impact they have on learning. Her extensive role at B Online Learning includes managing and facilitating the Master eLearning Course. This course instructs learning professionals how to design, develop and deliver eLearning courses effectively and efficiently in the workplace, whilst engaging them in a social community of eLearning best practice. She manages the Certified Articulate training programs in the Asia-Pacific region and was recently awarded BEST ONLINE FACILITATOR at the LearnX 2013.