Ally with your learners. Encourage and motivate them. Be ready to communicate often and initiate and sustain positive support for those who you will quickly discover will need your help to stay on course. Without effective facilitation, retention rates may drop substantially.
You can't just drop a lecture, instructions, and even a rubric and expect smooth sailing. Regularly solicit muddy points and questions. Ask how you can help. Be flexible and allow for some autonomy in determining when students do the work of the course. When possible, offer failsafe options.
Keep in mind that students can see quickly and easily if you care about their success in person. You have to work hard to demonstrate that you care about learning and success when you teach online.
When you teach online, your curriculum is ”out there in the open for everyone to see.” For that reason and others, I suspect the current crisis is going to prompt a lot of self-reflection that transforms many instructors to facilitators. Connect regularly with experienced online instructors. Consider taking an online course yourself so you can fully understand the experience and its unique demands and challenges.
Be willing to adjust tactics and strategies until you discover what works. I'm used to 90-100% retention, but it takes humility, an openness to try new things over many years. Most people do not achieve a quality online course until they have taught the course over at least two to three years.
Online students benefit directly from diverse learning activities, particularly regular opportunities for retrieval practice, deep processing, and meaningful discussions. But they need to be convinced that these activities will help them succeed. Without these activities, learners will too often resort to their ineffective study strategies, including rereading, highlighting, and looking over notes.
They also need to feel safe and able to succeed. Offer multiple attempts, trust them, and respond promptly to their concerns and questions. It's not easy at first but inspire them to embark on the online learning train.
But expect mastery in return. Support the challenging online journey with low stakes activities, and reward their ultimate success with progressive, cumulative exams and assessments.
As an online learning facilitator, you'll see the value of sharing the wealth of learning resources already available - check out the podcasts, other media, open educational resources, publisher resources, and more. Invite SMEs to present. Ask your learners to find and share resources via self-motivated learning activities.
Some of my tried and true tools for building an online community and driving engagement: Remind, Flipgrid, Google Forms, and Poll Everywhere (more on how I use these in upcoming posts). I also enthusiastically employ publisher learning resources like MindTap, Revel, Connect, and/or LaunchPad when it aligns with learning goals.
Written by Bob DuBois