My 10 Commandments*
Image via Wonderlane
1. Engage, engage, engage.
eLearning can be a cold, lonely place. Interactivity, graphic images, audio/video, and even themes are fun and motivating, making abstract concepts more concrete and increasing learning. Use of games or game-influenced designs, based on exploration, problem-solving, and trial and error, where students get lost in the fun and forget they are learning, work well even in higher education.
2. Chunk – in bite-sized chunks.
Research shows, time and time again, online students resist long “anything” – long passages of text, long modules, long tests, (long blog posts), etc.
3. Create/use authentic, meaningful, and relevant content.
Even more so than the f2f classroom, online and hybrid courses need to justify the real world application of skills and activities to motivate and engage students. Designing activities so the connection to the real world is integral to the activity (like simulations) is even better.
4. Discuss, with guidance.
Students need open-ended, thought-provoking, relevant prompts to get discussions going. We can do more than post “Discuss Chapter Two”. Gently elicit more from students who simply post “I agree” by replying “Tell me what you specifically agree with and why?” or a similar response.
5. Measure and assess with alignment.
Are your objectives measurable? (Can you visualize someone performing the task stated in the objective – if not, it is due for an upgrade). Does your assessment measure what your task is asking students to do? Alignment between the objective and its assessment is critical to student success. And speaking of assessment – let’s get creative. The real world doesn’t check knowledge in ten question quizzes – it does so through the application of learned concepts. Student engagement goes through the roof when assessments become authentic.
6. Use more than text.
Students score significantly higher with audio and/or visual cues embedded within the content, audio feedback on work turned in, visual feedback (i.e. screenshots) on submitted work or for further explanation, than text alone. Providing formative feedback in an audio format prior to a summatively graded activity is a highly effective method of improving student performance.
7. Know your audience.
Today’s students are mobile (as in phone). And as such, they are less apt to use email as their first or even second line of communication. They text, they chat, they Facebook. They are social. Give them an opportunity to form a community in your course like they would f2f in a class. Provide a “lounge” forum for non-course-related discussion. Incorporate other social media that is course-related like Diigo to have students collaboratively research and share notes across the web. Research consistently shows student perceive courses as more meaningful when authentic, problem-based, collaborative activities involving learner-learner interaction are the norm.
8. Be accessible
Design courses for accessibility from the beginning. It is easy to do it then. It is much more difficult to retrofit a course on the fly. Assistive technologies alone cannot remove all the barriers in a badly designed course site.
9. Provide opportunities for your students and yourself to reflect.
Reflection gives students the opportunity to explore course ideas deeply, make cross-curricular and real life connections, as well as express fears and concerns. It is one way asynchronous courses are able to connect learner to content and learner to instructor effectively. In addition, being a reflective practitioner gives you an opportunity to explore what is and is not working about the course, to generate new ideas while topics are fresh in your mind, and to note areas in which you need to do more research.
10. Eliminate tedium (yawn).
Being an online student is challenging enough. The least we can do is try to make the process more interesting than reading the IRS Tax Code.
*Inspired by The 10 Commandments of eLearning