Confessions of an Online Facilitator

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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

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

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:

  • webinars
  • elearning Modules
  • social media (forums , literature libraries, wikis, blogs, chat rooms)
  • online quizzes
  • mixture of written assessments and practical assessments

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.

 

About Ruth McElhone:
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.

4 thoughts on “Confessions of an Online Facilitator

  1. Julie

    Well written Ruth and very representative of my own personal experience of studying online. I have found the transition from classroom based learning to eLearning to be difficult. I liked your comment about ‘study momentum’ and the more i maintain consistency with doing MEC study regularly the easier I find it. It is to easy to forget what I had previously learnt and then I have to do it again.

    Reply
  2. Ruth

    What a great blog post. So true about the motivation issue and also about allocating yourself time to immerse yourself in the ‘online’ course. As mentioned in your blog post people tend to forget that they need to engage with learning – just like they would in a f2f classroom situation. I would love to hear your thoughts about the Gamification MOOC – I am a participant as well. Loving the content and learning so much from it.

    Reply
    1. Carmen Paule

      Great article Ruth! I particularly enjoyed the part about enrolling in a Gamification MOOC to see what is like from the learner perspective. I think this is an important aspect of becoming a good elearning designer, by exploring and understanding all modes of delivery as a learner.

      Reply
  3. Susan Pepper

    Ruth, I think you touch on many of the challenges of on-line learning. I have enrolled in a couple of MOOCs and not completed either though I found the content interesting. One of the reasons was that I spend much of my time at a computer during the day, and on-line courses are more of the same – neither my eyes, my hands nor my brain can cope with more in front of a computer time.

    Re gamification – I read recently that ‘simulation’ was more effective that ‘gamification’ in on-line learning. Any thoughts?

    Reply

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