Explore these five key elements to student success in an asynchronous learning environment. Includes D2L (LMS) tools used to support these elements.
This took me a shockingly long time to figure out. I am embarrassed to say that it wasn’t until 2012 that I began to personally archive all of my postings in the group discussion forums, and I now use these as a base from which to continuously adapt and reframe year over year. Although I refresh and update the course content every year, many of the same issues, discussion points, questions and reflections come up. Having a resource archive to draw from has immeasurably enriched my own contributions to our online conversations.
Incorporating a short video of myself at the beginning of each “class” (weekly module) helps to establish instructional immediacy, a key component of effective online teaching and learning. We’re not talking high production values, but just helping students to put a face and personality to my name helps foster a sense of connectedness and engagement. It’s also good to mix things up and harness the rich array of web based applications and resources that are out there: videos, websites, blogs, news aggregators, and more. I also encourage students to find and share their own online discoveries.
Institutional Learning Management Systems tend not to be the most intuitive or visually appealing. I create folders for each week’s content, populated with the same kinds of materials in the exact same sequence. This offers a sense of continuity to the online classroom – analogous to holding a face-to-face course in the same room every week. As well, we live in an online culture of continuous and immersive sharing and collaboration. Being explicit about how often you go into the course, timeframes for responding to emails, etc. reassures students that you care and are accessible.
The most important things that students want to know are: “What is expected of me?” “How do I access the course?”, “Where can I get help if I need it?” and “How can I be successful?” I make a point of addressing these questions by mobilizing multiple communication channels. People access and attend to information selectively – this way I make sure that the important information cuts through the “static” of students’ other, competing priorities, and I also get fewer panicked emails and phone calls in the first weeks of the course.
This is no big secret, but paying close attention to the affective dimension is key to learning and teaching. The majority of online courses at this time are still largely text-based, so I pay special attention to the nuances and emotional tone in all of my communications with students, whether via email or in the course discussion board. I also encourage students to reach out to me by phone or video chat in real time when they get stuck or more complex issues arise.