Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Six Tips for online efficiency in the distance learning environment that will earn you praise

S. Suzan J. Harkness, ©2011

Presence: Be present on the days leading up to the start of your online class and every day the first week. Have a FAQ document posted on the course site and direct students to this memo to address common questions. Have some answers penned in advance for commonly asked questions and paste them into a reply. No need to create the wheel each time a student asks the same question as another.

Recycle: Use free resources to support your content and drive learning. Check out MERLOT (http://www.merlot.org); YouTube (http://youtube.com); C-SPAN Video Library (http://www.c-spanvideo.org/videoLibrary); Wisconsin Online (http://www.wisc-online.com); Khan Academy (http://www.khanacademy.org); MIT Open Courseware (http://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm); Carnegie Mellon Open Courses (http://oli.web.cmu.edu/openlearning/); and The Open University UK (http://openlearn.open.ac.uk).

Attendance: Take attendance several times during the first week of class to document student presence. Have discussion postings that are due such as a check-in or an introduction posting. This activity alerts you up-front who has checked-in and who has not. This documentation may be required by the registrar’s office for financial aid reasons and quickly tells you who you may need to contact.

Instructor’s schedule: Set up a schedule of when you will go online and respond to student’s questions and when you will hold virtual office hours. Set up assessments to be self-grading when appropriate, track student progress, and set-up dashboards that will alert students to their status.

Syllabus Quiz: Require students to read, ask questions, and take a quiz on the syllabus. This exercise provides students a chance to review and ask questions on the syllabus and exposes them to the assessment tools to be used later in the course, i.e. quizzes and assessments.

Expectations: Establish clear expectations and go over rules of engagement and conduct. This should be thought of as a pathway to success. Provide students with clear and concise information on policies, extra credit, how and where to get technical help, when and how to contact the professor, how assignments should be submitted, how to navigate the course site, appropriate and inappropriate postings, netiquette, how to use any mobile learning platforms, institutional resources such as online tutoring, a writing lab, disability services, and the instructors policy on submitting late work.

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