How To Assess Online Learning

Online learning tools are a relatively new concept in education. They are not as new as many may think.

Some of the major players in online education, such as Udacity, Coursera, and LinkedIn Learning have a lot to teach. Udacity has built an empire out of online course offerings. Coursera, by far, is the most well-known of these three, offering free online classes by some of the world’s biggest names. For example, of the top 20 most popular online classes, 10 of them are from the University of Michigan.

Additionally, Udacity and Coursera are expanding their offerings to smartphone-owning students with free online courses. The emerging trend with these institutions of higher learning is “simultaneous courses.” They could offer lectures in multiple languages during a session or share instruction between a student enrolled in the course and their peers who are not enrolled.

However, this system does not scale to classroom settings, so parents can expect there may be limitations on what a student can learn and where. Adding a set of smartphone notes to an electronic classroom experience adds complexity for instructors, administrators, and students.

The core of the solution is to recognize that there are some boundaries to the type of teaching that should be allowed online.

1. Be objective

Many educators and administrators are inclined to rule out online classes because they may be construed as replacing face-to-face learning with online lectures. This is largely a common misconception. Rather than passing judgment on online courses and programs because they may be perceived as an online version of a traditional classroom experience, it’s better to see these options as complementary to one another. They are really different modes of learning – online and live.

What happens in an online class is common sense. Students read and take notes through live lectures, while individual assignments and quizzes are done through interactive viewing. However, if an online student is facing a group of students at a different physical location, the guidance and resources from the instructor might be more immediate and valuable.

2. Establish your expectations

Students are typically comfortable reading material and answering multiple-choice questions in any environment. They are much less attuned to auditory and visual feedback. The problem is when students are behind in their studies and have time to wait for answers to the questions or face criticism and feedback.

The key is to establish how long the process will take, how hard the lesson will be, and how complex the topic may be in order to gauge whether this mode of learning will help a student’s grades. The reality is, there will be times when the video is not ready or the writing is not finished. A student who is having trouble concentrating on a project at the time should not be expected to know the answer by the end of the class.

3. Create an eMail account

If the instruction material, like a lecture, is offered in real time, a student can use email to follow up on what’s happening and ask for help. For these educational opportunities, the online content should be contained in a separate eMail account from the student’s primary eMail account.

4. Communicate

This may be the trickiest part for anyone unfamiliar with online learning, particularly teachers who don’t have the time or resources to field a query or ask a student when homework has been completed. You may need to set up an email account with only the student’s message and a question to help students track the progress and expectations of the class. If a question arises that the student doesn’t understand, it is possible the student may get worried and put a deadline on the solution.

The best strategy may be to ask the student to post an “Ask Me Anything” and provide additional context. You may also need to use different tactics. For example, if the student sent you a question that couldn’t be answered right away, you may give a short lesson on the topic in the first class session, not wait for the second class.

Helpful Tips

The stakes for online learning are high. The duration of an online learning session should be what a student would expect in a classroom setting, with the emphasis being on feedback. Stay informed on your students and make sure the course administration is aware of where students are struggling in a specific aspect of the class. This way, the correct balance of online and offline sessions can be achieved.

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