Questions and Answers with an Online Educator

I have been taking and teaching online courses since 2000. Over the past 11 years I have heard many questions regarding online learning and so I thought it would be a good idea to address some of those that are frequently asked.

What would you say the number one reason students are not successful in a virtual classroom or online course?

Time. Many students take online courses because they are drawn to taking a class that they can do anytime from anywhere.  But what they don’t do is schedule time into their schedule.  I tell all of my students to block calendar time for an online class every week.  It doesn’t have to be at the same time or from the same location each week – but they do need to include time to do course work and to go online each week.

How do you know how much time each student is spending online?  What is the minimum of they should spend online?

This is one of the most difficult questions to answer.  Many people feel if they can tell that student A has been online for 10 hours and student B has been online for 2 hours that student A has done more course work.  I don’t agree. There are lots of things that could account for the difference in time online.  Student B could be a fast reader, they could review the work, and then work offline – only coming online and in the course to share their thoughts or post their assignments.  Student A could have logged into the course got interrupted and left the computer. So although it shows they were online they were not actually in front of the computer.  I think that it is more important to review the work that is being submitted than how much time each learner has spent online.  I will add that if a student hasn’t been online for a week – I will reach out and make sure that everything is okay.

As an instructor do you participate in course discussions?

Yes and No.  For the most part- I let my students engage and interact with each other in an online course discussion.  I don’t want my voice or opinion to be seen as the right answer or the only way to think.  I have found by sitting back and watching the discussion different students’ step up to own various discussions.  I will give a summary of the discussion to the group- because I do think it is important to have closure – but while they are sharing their answers I try to be hands off.  I will jump in if a conversation is getting off topic, or if students are not being respectful of the thoughts and works of others. 

Online assignments take longer to grade.

In my opinion FALSE – I love reading and grading things online.  Everything is typed and there is not struggling on reading someone’s hand writing.  I also like that everything is online- because it makes it easier to comment and give feedback on assignments and when you give something a score, the grade is automatically entered into the grade book.  This makes working and entering grades a bit easier.

What questions do you have about online learning?  Do you have any best practices or strategies to share?  Add a comment and share your thoughts. 

In August 2017, Julia Fischer joined our extended network of alumni.