Currently, I am taking a class through Johns Hopkins University called Designing and Delivering eLearning Environments. Through the course I have developed a greater understanding of the essential elements of successful online learning experiences. Engaging with these elements through online discussions with my peers as well as exploration of eLearning platforms has allowed me to understand how these elements can make or break an online course. Below are two elements that I found most useful and effective in building successful learning environments.
Community building is by far the most important element of a successful eLearning experience in my opinion. One of the major issues many students seem to have with taking courses online is that the lack of face-to-face interaction makes the course seem impersonal. Without regular interactions with their peers and instructors, online students can often feel disengaged with the coursework and lose motivation. For this reason, it is important that online instructors build supportive communities in their classes where students feel comfortable and safe sharing their opinions and thoughts. Some examples of community building we discussed include asynchronous whole group discussions, encouraging students to share professional and personal backgrounds, and scheduling synchronous chats where students can collaborate in real-time.
High Performance Teaming
In my course at Hopkins, the professor consistently asks us to engage in discussions with our teams to complete tasks and projects. As I learned through participating in these discussions, teaming builds a supportive community where students can participate comfortably to engage with material, clarify ideas and concepts, and raise their awareness of other perspectives. Research provided by my instructor details how teaming can increase performance and self-esteem for students by providing them with positive experiences related to the material. By providing students with consistent opportunities to take part in high performance teaming, (usually where teammates work together to complete an activity each week), instructors can create learning environments where students work collaboratively to engage with material.
High performance teaming and community building are two elements that tackle one of the biggest issues most instructors and students have with online learning: the lack of personal interactions. By creating instances where students engage with their peers asynchronously or synchronously, instructors can remove the impersonal quality of eLearning environments and create spaces for learning where students feel comfortable and safe sharing their opinions.
For me personally, these two elements can make or break an online learning experience, and exploring these in depth has given me great insight into how to better build eLearning environments in the future.