Friday, March 24, 2017

Setting up your online learning environment

Setting up your online learning environment

When setting up your online learning environment, there are some important steps that need to be taken carefully by the instructor.  First of all, as the instructor, you need to be familiar with your Learning Management System.  This is where you class or course will be accessed by your students.  In order to deliver an effective class, the instructor needs to know the ins and outs of their Learning Managements System.  There are many Learning Management Systems on the market today.  Some systems are Blackboard, Schoology and Moodle.  When learning your Learning Management System, there are some tips that you can follow to be successful. 

In our textbook, The Online Teaching Survival Guide, they gave some tips on getting to know your Learning or Course Management System.  They suggest that you become familiar with setting up the following items:  requesting or arranging the course template, uploading documents and pictures, uploading and revising documents, setting up and creating discussion forums, setting up and using grade book, and setting up teams and groups (Boettcher and Conrad, 2010).  I have had experience with working in an online learning environment as an instructor.  I can tell you from firsthand how important this tip is from Boettcher and Conrad.  While working as a K-6 English Language Arts teacher, I found out quickly how important it is to know your Learning Management System.  I would make an analogy to a person’s spine or backbone.  The Learning Management System is so important to your class and as the instructor you need to know how to use it effectively as the instructor.  If you are able to modify it efficiently and effectively, you will be able to focus on the engagement of your learner and not the workings of the system.  That year, we had a fellow teacher that was struggling with the Learning Management System.  In October, we decided to do a professional development for our staff to familiarize them with the system.  It was great to hear the positive feedback from her a few weeks after the training.  She was so relieved to be able to focus on the learning and not on the manipulation of the platform. 

When setting up your online class expectations, it is extremely important to make sure these expectations are very clear to your learners.  In a traditional classroom, this is a little easier to do because you are working with the kids in a face-to-face manner.   You can restate your expectations many times throughout the first few weeks.  But in the online environment, you don’t have the daily face-to-face interactions you have in a traditional classroom.  In our textbook, Boettcher and Conrad gave a great tip on stating your classroom expectations.  They said that along with communication expectations, you should also include your expectations on classroom participation logging into the course, discussion expectations, and the length of posts and assignments (Boettcher and Conrad, 2010).  Setting clear expectations from the start can help and instructor get what they are expecting from the student from the beginning.  It is also important in my opinion that the instructor can change the expectations during the course.  If the instructor wants to change these expectations, it is extremely important to communicate these changes in many different ways.  You can post to the discussion board, send out an email to the students, or even post it as an announcement on the homepage. 

In the Boettcher and Conrad text, they gave another great tip that I feel makes a whole lot of sense in setting up your online learning environment.  They spoke about hitting the ground running in your first week (Boettcher and Conrad, 2010).  One of the tips within this chapter, talked about if an instructor should contact the students prior to the course start date (Boettcher and Conrad, 2010).  I think this is a great tip for every online instructor to consider.  Many students are nervous when starting their online course because it is not your traditional way of learning.  Many times, students will be taking an online course for the first time.  In my opinion, as the instructor, it is your job to make the students feel comfortable just as if you were in a traditional classroom.  When an instructor reaches out to the students prior to the course start date, it helps show the students that the instructor is approachable and available to answer questions or provide help during the course.  During my year of working online, I wish I would have done this prior to the first day of school.  Interacting with the students in the online environment could have helped me make a stronger connection with the students.  It could have helped the students see that I was available for them at times other than just traditional school hours.

When setting up your online learning environment, I feel that familiarizing yourself with your Learning Management System if your top priority.  Feeling comfortable with the system will allow you to focus on the learning content instead of the technical side of the system.  Setting clear expectations for your classroom is another top priority for the instructor.  The students must know what is expected of them for your classroom.  Finally, helping make the students feel comfortable in the online environment is another top priority for the instructor.  If the students feel comfortable, then they will be willing to take chances while learning. 


-        Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010).  The Online Teaching Survival Guide.  San Francisco, CA:  Jossey-Bass