19 March 2013

Ensuring Effective Online Courses


Distance learning is getting more popular in the recent years, becoming one of the growing forces in the education sector and the reason why many universities are investing in online platforms to get a piece of the action within the industry. In these fast-paced times students need non-traditional learning tools that will give them the full experience without having to sacrifice their full time jobs and this may be the main reason behind the increased potential. However, most institutions are still unprepared to face this worldwide phenomenon because of the lack of expertise to recognize the need and create platforms that will enable them to deliver effective online courses. Highly qualified professionals and academics who will provide innovative and industry-focused programs are absolutely necessary, but they are only part of the whole service package, with additional five main areas that must also be considered before teaching an online course:

Interaction and Support. Students most often won’t choose online courses that miss the element of interactivity. The interaction is a vital element of the educational process that creates a community environment and encourages academic learning. For the program to be effective the institutions providing distance learning services should give a consistent level of support and interaction delivered through forums, live streaming lessons or virtual classrooms with experienced online lecturers who know how to set the emotional and intellectual tone the students need to feel the dynamic of their online classes.

Extra resources and services. Quality distance learning services also invest in different tools and resources that will additionally enhance the quality of their syllabus and give students the full learning experience. Plagiarism checker is a good example of such service that students can use when writing their papers and course assignments to ensure their academic works are completely unique and original. This plagiarism checker will scan their content against all web pages and a comprehensive database of over 20 million academic works to deliver a plagiarism report with a list of used sources and highlighted sentences and paragraphs that need to be cited.

Interaction and Collaboration among Peers. The students want to have the opportunity to collaborate and exchange opinions and ideas with other people who have same experience as they do. Learning as a social activity has been pointed out by many studies, where the students can share their knowledge and build better mental connection regarding the material, drawing their own conclusions and generating ideas from their mutual experiences.

An effective online course should be designed as an open and organized online community where students can work together in groups, initiate interactions through forums, get involved in discussions led by their lecturers and be part of online study groups that promote peer to peer interactions. This way they have better chances of building long lasting relationships which will benefit their professional networks during and after they complete the online course.

Additional Tools and Support. One of the best things about distance learning is the possibility of enhancing students’ learning experience by using different multimedia content. The institutions providing e-learning services should offer their students proper balance of written, video and audio tools and assignments to cover the main points of the course curriculum and allow them to get the most out of their experience. The best online courses give their students access to quality online libraries and provide them with tools they can use to self-assess their knowledge, identify their strengths and weaknesses, and track their progress throughout the course of their study.

Accessibility and Implementation of Innovation and Technology. A great advantage of distance learning is that it becomes more accessible and comprehensive with the implementation of the ever-evolving innovations and technology. The online educational platforms should create and provide dynamic interactions with an exhaustive approach and they should also be accessible from different devices (laptops, iPads, smartphones) and from any place in the world so that the students can have a truly flexible study experience.

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