Setting Up an Online Learning Experience

What is the significance of knowing the technology available to you?

It is extremely important for the instructor to know the available technology so that he or she is able to utilize and enhance the learning environment by using what is available. It is also important for the instructor to know what technology is available for the learners so that assignments and projects can be catered around the availability. Prior to setting up the online classroom, the instructor must have first hand knowledge of the available technology as well as how to use the technology to maximize the learning environment. It is important for a new instructor to keep the technology tools to a minimum in the beginning so as not to become overwhelmed. “But it is vital that you only add tools only as you are ready. If a tip suggests a tool that is not available to you are not quite ready for, simply adapt the tip as makes sense to you and come back to it for further consideration the next time you are teaching the course” (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010).

Why is it essential to communicate clear expectations to learners?

Clear expectations are extremely important in any educational situation. I teach third grade and spend the first month of school going over the expectations so that my students eventually become natural in meeting the goals. Clear expectations are an essential success factor for both the instructor and the learner. The expectations for discussion posts and assignment deadlines should be provided to students prior to the first day of class as most students have access a day or two before the class begins. Due to the lack of face to face interaction, the instructor should make sure he or she provides answers to questions that may arise so that the students know exactly what is expected of them throughout the course. Organization and communication are key for both the success of the learner and the instructor.

What additional considerations should the instructor take into account when setting up an online learning experience?

The instructor should get to know the learners as soon as possible.  He or she should reach out to them through email or phone calls prior to the start of the course. Once the course has started the instructor should begin getting to know each of the students and establishing expectations and communication while implementing a community of learners. Determining where each student is from as well as their background knowledge will help aid the instructor towards tweaking his or her delivery to meet their needs.  While the online syllabus should consist of a framework of expectations,  welcoming the students, as people who you are interested in getting to know and mentor, is vital.  There is nothing worse than taking an online course in which you feel like you are not an important part of the learning environment.
Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The Online Teaching Survival Guide: Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Online Learning Communities

How do online learning communities significantly impact both student learning and satisfaction within online courses?

Online learning communities are essential for student success and satisfaction. Students need to opportunities to engage with other learners in the environment in order to understand the importance and impact of team building as well as learning from each other. The facilitator plays an important role in creating a positive learning community and must plan ahead to ensure that this is achieved. “The students need to be informed that others in the community will be just as important as the instructor, if not more so at times” (Conrad & Donaldson, 2011).

 What are the essential elements of online community building?

The essential elements of online community building begin with the instructor setting the tone right from the start and letting the students know that the course will consist of student engagement amongst instructor and classmates. “This tone can be sent by an initial email from the instructor or by having the first activity of the course by and icebreaker introduction that requires learners to learn about and interact with one another in a unthreatening manner” (Conrad & Donalson, 2011). The six basic elements of online community building consist of “value, transparency, metrics, engagement, conversations and culture” (Peacock, 2013).

 How can online learning communities be sustained?

An online learning community is essential to the success and satisfaction of each learner. Once the instructor has implemented a learning community, it is imperative to ensure that it continues throughout the course. There are four phases of engagement that an instructor should take into consideration to ensure that a positive learning community is in place throughout the course. An instructor should provide opportunities in which learners are placed in groups to perform tasks that require participation from each learner in the group. “After establishing an appropriate climate for engagement to occur in Phase 1, the instructor becomes a structural engineer who is responsible for organizing and facilitating the growth of the student as a cooperative participant” (Conrad & Donaldson, 2011).

What is the relationship between community building and effective online instruction?

Effective online instruction is required in order to establish a positive community within the online learning environment. The instructor is the key to this happening. “The most important role of the instructor in online classes is to ensure a high degree of interactivity and participation. This means designing and conducting learning activities that result in engagement with the subject matter and with fellow students” (Conrad & Donaldson, 2011).



 Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Conrad, R., & Donaldson, J. A. (2011). Engaging the online learner: Activities and resources for creative instruction (Updated ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.