Friday, July 19, 2013

Setting up an Online Learning Experience

Starting well is essential for a successful online learning experience, and it doesn’t happen automatically.  A skilled facilitator spends the time necessary to achieve social, cognitive, and teaching presence from the outset (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010) and continues to actively support learners throughout the course according to their individual needs and learning styles.

Having a comprehensive understanding of available technology enables the facilitator to select the best technology for a particular application and to effectively coach learners who have not mastered the technology. Without technological clarity, a facilitator may overload herself and the learners with unnecessary tasks or technology that interferes with learning (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010).

It is essential to clearly communicate expectations to learners. Most adult learners are goal-oriented, and mastery of skills boosts their confidence and improves their self-esteem (Malamed, 2013). Learners need to understand expectations so they can take steps to meet them and feel satisfied with their online learning experience (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010).

When setting up an online learning experience, facilitators should provide an opportunity for learners to share biographical information. This fosters openness and community, and also provides a frame of reference for the facilitator when interacting with learners in discussion forums. When a facilitator uses student names and references relevant biographical information, this personalizes the learning experience and promotes learner engagement (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.).

Conversely, facilitators need to be aware that some learners are reluctant to share personal information for fear of being stereotyped (e.g., by race, gender, ethnicity, geography, relationship status, etc. (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.). Personal information should be invited, not required. As well, when designing ice breakers and discussion prompts, facilitators should allow learners to choose from activities with varying degrees of openness.

Great beginnings lead to great middles and great endings!



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

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer) (n.d.) Launching the Online Learning Experience [DVD] Baltimore: MD.

Malamed, C. (2013).


  1. Sally,

    I think understanding the expectations of the class also help learners to plan ahead for the class. Having a schedule for assignments, discussions, and projects allows them to manage their time better and not wait to the last minute to get things done.
    In our classes, I've enjoyed reading everyone's personal information they post in the student lounge about where they are from and what they do. This helps us to get to know each other better and allow us to make connections that we typically can not make because we are not in a face to face setting.

  2. Sally,

    I liked the idea you brought up about the instructor knowing the technology they are using in the course. The technology should be a tool in helping the student convey the information learned. What do you do if the student represents the content goals or objectives as learned information but does not present it in the technology the instructor requested?

    Also, I liked how you offered the student the ability to choose from icebreaker activities. This would allow the learner to choose something they feel most comfortable with. This could be done by setting up different groups based on the icebreaker activity.

    Great ideas!


  3. Sally,
    I originally posted my comments to your blog on Saturday from the campground but it apparently did not work so here it is again.

    You provided a great blog post for setting up an online learning experience. In it you wrote, “Personal information should be invited, not required. As well, when designing ice breakers and discussion prompts, facilitators should allow learners to choose from activities with varying degrees of openness“. I agree with your thoughts on this topic for the same reasons you identified from this week’s video presentation. I consider myself an older student and I know I would not appreciate being stereotyped simply because of my age.

    The online icebreaker, “Truths and Lies” (Conrad & Donaldson, 2011, p. 64), used for this course aligns well with the methods recommended in this week’s video presentation, allowing for voluntary participation. For example, as learners we were invited to participate in the online icebreaker but it was not required. We also were informed that refusal to participate would not affect our grade. I enjoyed participating in that activity to initiate social presence (Conrad & Donaldson, 2011).

    I enjoyed reading your blog post and look forward to reading more of your blogs as this course progresses.


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

  4. This is very good post, very enlightening. I’ve learned so many things from your post regarding elearning instructional design