I took my first series of online courses for professional development in 2009. The courses were highly interactively and well-designed because they were taught by experts in the field of computer-assisted language learning. A shout-out to my professors in the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) certificate program, Principles and Practices of Online Teaching! (See blog on this topic). Ever since then, I’ve compared online courses to those.
As a working instructional designer and current PhD student enrolled in online courses, I bring a well-rounded perspective to the topic of distance education. I’ve researched and written about how to develop an online community of inquiry. It has become my personal agenda to ensure that students taking online courses don’t get frustrated from the course design and lack of teacher presence.
Here’s a list of what I consider the top 5 pitfalls that will surely decrease student learning outcomes and student satisfaction:
- Lack of pattern in weekly assignments will cause confusion, especially in a hybrid (blended) course. For example, as you plan threaded discussions, quizzes, and assignments, make sure they follow a pattern; otherwise, indicate on your syllabus any gaps in the established pattern of assignments.
- Numerous clicks to find content leads to frustration. To increase findability, use clear navigation practices to reduce time lost on task and frustration levels (Simunich, Robins, & Kelly, 2012).
- Lack of synchronous sessions to connect with the human leads to reduced achievement. To increase student achievement, include synchronous sessions (Bernard et al., 2004), Arbaugh and Hornik (2006) suggested video conferencing, voice messaging, or some other types of multimedia.
- Instructors not responding to students’ discussions in a timely manner. There are several theories on human learning about delivering targeted instruction at the right time such as Vygotsky’s (1978) zone of proximal development, Ebbinghaus’ serial position effect (primacy and recency effect), and the presence or absence of retrieval cues in Cormier’s information processing theory. Students need prompt feedback that targets their instructional needs (Arbaugh, 2001). See my blog post on instructor feedback for online courses.
- Lack of student-student interactions (Bernard et al., 2004). Make sure students can talk to one another and share their finished projects.
Do you agree with my top 5?
Arbaugh, J. B. (2001). How instructor immediacy behaviors affect student satisfaction and learning in web-based courses. Business Communication Quarterly, 30, 42-54.
Arbaugh, J. B., & Hornik, S. (2006). Do Chickering and Gamson’s seven principles also apply to online MBAs? The Journal of Educators Online, 3(2), 1-18.
Bernard, R. M., Abrami, P. C., Borokhovski, E., Wade, C. A., Tamim, R., Surkes, M. A., & Bethel, E. C. (2009). A meta-analysis of three types of ITs in distance education. Review of Educational Research, 79, 1243-1288.
Simunich, B., Robins, D., & Kelly, V. (2012). Does findability matter? Findability, student motivation, and self-efficacy in online courses. Quality Matters (QM) Research Grant, Kent State University.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.