Connecting and engaging learners in blended/online learning

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Transforming the way we connect and engage learners in blended/online learningBy Caroline BrockPrincipal Consultant/Managing Director

Whats in it for you?Understand what student want from their online experienceUnderstand the role of trainers in driving success in online learningBe aware of what a quality online student journey look likeMaking sure your LMS, online learning resources, assessments and delivery model works together Choosing the right strategy for your students

Drop out rates are high. 7% completion rates for VET Fee online courses in VET sectorExperience a sense of isolationLack of personal interaction between the instructor and student & student-to-student.LMS user experience is poor - frustrationDisconnected learning experiences between modules, topics and assessmentTHE CURRENT ENVIRONMENT

Indications early in 2015 were that those students studying in online only mode had completion rates of around 7%, as opposed to around 40% for those students which undertook classroom or workplace based training where there was shall we say face to face components of the training.

Personal variables include things like previous academic experience, self-efficacy, ability to organise their study and motivation. Institutional variables include the balance between the needs of the learner and the institution, the availability of support and the nature of university processes and systems. Circumstantial variables cover the learners interactions with the institution as well as the changing circumstances of their lives.


ContentOnline SystemSupportLearning JourneyStrategyWHAT IS THE CAUSE?

Disjointed strategyNo strategyPoor contentLearning journey put lastIneffective targeted support


lack of personal interaction between the instructor and student, as well as the student-to-student contact.Students find it difficulties engaging with the materials and the assessments- badly designed contentStudent navigation and use of the system Disconnected learning experiences lack of connections between courses, subjects, and projects, or between needs / desires / goals and the final education they receive, or in connecting online and face-to-face learning experiences.Its as if learning takes place in silos. Passive learning learning accomplished as if one learns simply through receipt and absorption of content, instead of via interactivity and discourse

Regimented learning based on a one size fits all model the most obvious mistake historically has been to believe that every learner learns the same way. (This resulted in a one-way, singular model for delivering education.) Opaque assessments traditional assessments have been labor-intensive for educators yet often have failed to provide clear, understandable metrics. Think about how often students complain they dont get their instructors feedback. Thelack of support and progressive feedbackE-learning strategy is not mapped out and well defined4

What students want from their online learning experiencePeer Interaction: students want peer interaction and to engage in discussions BUT only successful if trainer drives and promotes interaction More success if you attach a rubric for participation in online discussionsStudents and Instructor Feedback: Student enjoy well thought out constructive feedback from instructors not just a gradeSense of belonging: Students wanted to feel part of a communityI loved the personal classroom feel of the videos and the message board posting assignments.Survey conducted in 2013 by Debbie Morrison, author of Online Learning Insights & University of South Australia

Students were representatives of various equity groups including first-in-family to attend university, low SES, regional or remote, Indigenous, with a disability, carer, worker etc5

What students want from their online learning experienceWHAT THEY WERE DOING RIGHTLevel of assessment feedbackWebinars/live sessionsAccess to e-learning advisorsContent interesting & enjoyableLive video and chat sessionsAREAS OF IMPROVEMENTInstructions for assessmentHow to achieve the best results for the assessmentsGuidelines for forum participationLayout of learning materials & flow of the course

Survey results from Victorian online learning provider 2014


SO WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM STUDENTS?The personal touch is importantFocus on assessment instructions, submission process & feedback Technology should enable, be the silent driver should not inhibit!Content is king a cohesive learning journey


YOUR 3 PRONGED STRATEGY*communication*presence & *engagement*timeliness & responsiveness*mentors*help deskOnline Classroom management*intervention plansHuman 2 Human*social *mobile*easy to use*learning community*learning eco-systemLearning Platform*Course Design*bite size*multi media*Problem solving focused*real lifeLearning Journey & Content 3 year Online learning Strategy & Sustainability Plan

This can be seen also in the area of LMS platforms, which initially were designed to be online repositories of information for course content, class rosters, schedules, assignments, tests and grades, and online learning. But LMS systems initially did not include otherkey elements related to fostering engagement vis-- vis collaboration and communication between and among learners, educators and administrators.

81% of student use mobiles devises to study

learn how to use the most fundamental learning tools to access and navigate the online systems, as well as develop online academic communication skills to participate effectively in online learning.


You cant just chop things up and expect them to make sense!M.David Merrill


Ideas Online icebreakers - to encourage students to meet and interact in the virtual environmentMake communication and collaborationbetween students part of assessment, such as group assignments and peer assessments;Provide an online student lounge or encourage students to use Skype, Facebook or other networking sites to interact beyond the formal course;Schedule and facilitate real-time learning sessions using virtual classroom technology.How we take advantage of technology & course design to students feel more included?HUMAN-2-HUMAN APPROACH

Courses need to offer abalanceoflearning and socialisation activities where students can interact with each other.


IDEASUseintroductory videosto course & teachersCommunicate regularly with students through announcementsEngage in discussion forums with studentsOffer electronic office hours where real-time conversations can be initiated.Be accessible and respond to student inquiries in a timely manner.Establish and well-publicized timeframe for responding to student inquiriesCheck up on your students. Know which students are falling behind and reach out with a short e-mailReminders for deadline or assessment requirements Provide substantive feedback and positive critiqueHow can trainers make students feel more included?HUMAN-2-HUMAN APPROACH

Teacher presencealso contributes to a sense of belonging in the online context.Keeping students engaged in the course is a vital function of an effective instructor

Research provides evidence that strong feelings of community may not only increase persistence in courses, but may also increase the flow of information among all learners, availability of support, commitment to group goals, cooperation among members and satisfaction with group efforts.

Have an established and well-publicized timeframe for responding to student inquiries. At many schools, its 24 hours during the week and 48 hours on weekends. Make it easy for students to locate your email address and telephone number within the learning management system (LMS). Oftentimes a five-minute call can alleviate a multitude of student frustrations and fears, and is actually a lot quicker than a back-and-forth email discussion.

Can we keep all students engaged in the classroom? Past evidence tells us no. Weve all had students who are perfectly happy to do the minimum amount required to get a passing grade. Is that a reason to forgo any efforts to increase student engagement? Absolutely not! As instructors, we have a duty to teach. Teaching in the online environment requires us to go beyond posting a lecture or an assignment. Build within your students a sense of anticipation. Give students a reason to be engaged by making sure you are fully engaged in their success.


IDEAS FROM PROVIDERS WITH NEAR 100% RETENTIONMap out the student support communication plan for the courseStarts at enrolment what does it mean to take the courseOrientation - Offering students the opportunity to explore their online classroom. This increases their comfort with the navigation, basic processes of online learning and course characteristics24/7 technical support -Quickly communicate and solve technology issuesAllow students to communicate with the facilitator at times that are convenient to themUse technology to quickly identify students at risk for dropping out.Extend services beyond course or program completion. How can student support make students feel more included?HUMAN-2-HUMAN APPROACH

With decreasing budgets and resources are strapped and new investments can be difficult. How can we improve? .The support given to a student throughout the online experience has almost more to do with how successful the student will be than the course itself.

Bruce Friend, Director of SAS Curriculum Pathways, NC (Personal Communication, June 16, 2010)



What are the requirements a modern LMS need to have to drive engagement & retention