Best Practices Guide
Note: Through this best practices guide the trainer will be able to use this information in order to effectively transition his training course to a fully online course. Each of these three areas is crucial for understanding and providing steps for the transition.
· The Role of the Instructor in Providing Structure
One crucial area that should be considered in the planning process is establishing structure and clear learning objectives listed. This can be created through a checklist, syllabus or goals/objectives listed for the course under each material or training. Clear structure and learning objectives before the course even begins or before all this information is converted online establishes a relationship and expectation between the instructor and the student, or in this case the trainee and the trainers. Anyone taking a an online course needs to know and understand the expectations and requirements to complete the course of study before they even begin. When planning a course no one should assume that everyone has taken an online class or is familiar with technology. With this in mind the instructor or trainee is responsible for clearly guiding each student. Simonson, Smaldino & Zvacek (2015) that, “students who have not taken a distance learning course, either synchronous or asynchronous, need guidance as to what they are expected to do. It is the responsibility of the instructor, when designing a course, to be certain that there are hints and suggestions, clearly articulated expectations” (p.193). Through providing a syllabus, online calendar and clear learning objectives before each week’s assignments will serve as great aides for students (Simonson, Smaldino & Zvacek, 2015).
· Assessing the Learners
The characteristics of modern distance learner can be vast and span across various cultures, age and geography. With this in mind, I believe that the first role of the instructional designer will be to learn general characteristics of their participants in their learning environment so they can shape instruction accordingly. Even though this may be challenging because of distance, time or separation it will prove valuable. Simonson, Smaldino & Zvacek (2015) state that, “knowledge of the students can assist the distance educator in overcoming the sensation of separation of the instructor and the student and can ensure that the learning experience will be positive” (p.189). After these general characteristics are considered the instructional designer can then approach his learning design with more clarity as to “who” he or she is going to be educating and build a course around these learning tendencies. Ertmer and Newby (1993) state that, “online instruction must be based on a student’s existing mental structures, or schema, to be effective. It should organize information in such a matter that learners are able to connect new information with existing knowledge” (pg. 60). While it is going to be impossible to base an entire online course structure upon individual learning characteristics, gathering these general learning characteristics will help shape the learning environment as a whole
· 5 Attributes of Successful Distance Learners
If the trainer is seeking to change the format into an online training styled format, he or she must also consider the characteristics that distance learners need to be successful. This list will help he or she prepare an orientation for his trainees.
#1 Time management Skills
The flexibility of distance learning classroom has its clear advantages and is very conducive for today’s modern learner in that it allows the student to work, take care of family and attend school. While this flexibility for the adult learner might seem ideal it also requires serious skills of time management. The ability to manage time is the major factor of encouraging students to succeed as a distance learner. As a distance learner, it is vital to know that you will not receive persistent reminders about quizzes that are coming up, projects that are scheduled, or deadlines for papers that must be submitted. This means that the student must utilize some sort of time management system in order to keep track of everything. Having a time management strategy can help an individual avoid procrastination.
#2 Independent or Self-Learner
Distance learners should be independent, self-directed individuals. The online environment enables students to learn at their own pace, relieving some of the pressure of traditional seated learning and making learning more enjoyable, but this requires that the student is able to identify learning goals and objectives and focus their attention accordingly. Distance learners must become independent problem solvers, doing their own research and expanding their life-long learning skills. This process helps them develop critical thinking skills, and the ability to interpret and synthesize reading materials and research papers with differing points of view and in the process develop their own positions and beliefs about the subject matter.
#3 Goal Driven
This attribute is in line with being a self-learner, but in order to be effective in an online classroom and keep pace with the information being a goal minded individual is crucial. Online classes move quickly and instructors often will not allow students to make up missed online discussions or assignments. This means that discipline and goals will play a vital role.
#4 Good Collaboration skills.
Many distance learning environments and courses require good collaborative and group management skills for group projects and discussions of study topics. The ability to collaborative work toward a goal, or collaborate in a discussion is helpful for distance students. Students may be asked to work within a group in various capacities to support a collaborative effort for discussion, research, or project, so social skills as well as communication and respect of the other students is vital. Working together in an unemotional and civil fashion, and coping with the personalities of the others in the group may be challenging but these skills are needed in distance education as well as in most aspects of life
#5 Basic Computer Proficiency
Some computer and Information literacy is necessary for a distance learner. Distance learners should possess a working knowledge of email, the Internet, and basic keyboard skills. Distance learners may be required to develop skills for researching and locating information from various sources and differentiate and evaluate them for inclusion in distance learning assignments and research projects.
Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Developing online courses [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., & Zvacek, S. (2015). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education
Ertmer, P. A., & Newby, T. J. (1993). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6(4), 50–71.
The Attributes of Distance Learners. Retrieved from: http://www.ectolearning.com/File.aspx?f=2faee5fe-eba9-4e94-8e81-c5915f3e9b00
ASET online education. The Attributes of Successful Learners. Retrieved from: file:///C:/Users/garth/Downloads/AttributesOfSuccessfulLearners.pdf
Fairmont State University. Characteristics of a Successful Online Student. Retrieved from: https://www.fairmontstate.edu/academics/distancelearning/successful_student.asp