Aug 09 2011

Distance Learning Primer


Just getting started with distance learning? Here are four tips that will point you in the right direction.

Train faculty online. When offering training to teach faculty how to redesign their courses for the web, consider doing the training online so professors know what it is like to experience an online course. UNC Charlotte, for example, offers a three-week online workshop. By experiencing online course delivery through their own eyes, professors can better understand the medium and maximize the use of multimedia and real-time communications as they design and teach their courses.

Build a social community, but don't go it alone. Online teaching can be time-intensive because professors have to build an interactive and collaborative learning environment. Professors should take advantage of graduate assistants to help with live, online discussion groups. Another option is to split students into small groups, so they can have online group discussions, and have a leader from each group report back to the professor.

Review online courses for quality assurance. Universities should require that all online courses go through a quality review with an instructional consultant every three years. Only classes that meet a university's standards should be offered. The instructional consultant can aid professors in remediating courses, if necessary.

Involve the faculty in decision-making. Faculty members are critical to the success of an online education program, so it's important to get their opinions and feedback, particularly on the technology used to deliver the online curriculum. When UNC Charlotte selected a new learning management system, a faculty member led the evaluation committee.