Mapping Success: Essential Elements of an Effective Online Learning Experience
"An online course is like walking into a foreign land with an entire map laid out, but having no sense of the land's origin or how to navigate the terrain. How the instructor formats and interacts with the class will ultimately determine the student's travel experience."
It is important to integrate the elements of an online course to form a cohesive whole that creates easy travel based on instructor presence, appropriate feedback, and easy navigation for students.
Instructor Presence - The Mapmaker
Instructor presence is vital to create in an online course, because without it, the class becomes an impersonal experience guided only by text and the other electronic medium.
Instructor presence can be created in a variety of ways:
- having a welcome announcement and faculty bio providing an initial presence
- having consistent formatting
- putting photos in the faculty bio and on the main introduction so that students could put a face to the instructor's name
- having the instructor provide his or her own icebreaker and having students relate theirs to it
- providing clear objectives for the course (and relating those to each lesson so that the expectations are clear)
- having the instructor take part in the discussions
Instructor Feedback - The Tour Guide
Instructor feedback is one of the most vital elements of an online course. Feedback helps the students recognize that there is an instructor that is monitoring their progress. Feedback adds an interactive component that brings warmth to the experience.
Feedback can be found in many areas.
- discussions - giving reinforcement as quickly as possible
- giving a quiz with a function that produces immediate correction.
- Email communication: let students know the time frame for answering emails
- online office hours
The feel of the course and the experience for the student will chiefly rest on the instructor's ability to provide a succinct, clear, accessible, course with guided direction--in other words, an accessible map made by a mapmaker who serves as the tour guide.
Danielle Hathcock, "Faculty Focus" September 5, 2012