Making online learning work



The world of online learning has grown by leaps and bounds in the last decade. In fact, some students are able to complete entire degree programs online, opening up more choices of schools for many. A lot of focus is put on how students can succeed in online classes, but how do instructors ensure that they are providing a quality educational experience to their online students?

The Sloan Consortium offers a list of effective practices for online learning. They have chosen to focus on five elements of quality education. These are access, learning effectiveness, faculty satisfaction, and student satisfaction.

Access consists of providing a wide variety of classes and subjects online. Learning effectiveness is fairly straightforward, and is measured through normal means, such as testing, writing papers, etc. Faculty satisfaction details how comfortable instructors are with the technology used and the support provided for online learning. Student satisfaction deals with many of the same issues, such as how easy or difficult it was to work within the software applications that the school has chosen to implement.

In order to submit an effective practice for consideration to the Sloan Consortium, the practice must demonstrate that it is innovative, useful across many platforms, and will have a positive impact on learning. They also require documentation of the effectiveness, as well as a strong relationship to other effective practices. If these criteria are met, the Consortium will add the practice to their “Effective Practices Catalog, which is available online and fully searchable.

Some of the most recently approved practices include “Faculty and Student Support System for Blended Courses.” This practice was led by a sharp increase in enrolment, and involved the online learning team working with the information technology department in order to assess and improve the need for online support for distance learners.

Another interesting practice recently added to the catalog is “Study Strategies and Student Engagement Using Wikis.” This practice is meant to encourage students to prepare for lectures by using wiki pages to publish students’ notes on the assigned textbook readings and share them with one another.

There are many effective practices available for online instructors. The trick is finding the ones that fit the material of the particular course and work within the technological framework that the school in question utilizes.