What should you be thinking about this summer if you are new to online learning?

What should a program and a teacher be thinking about right now in preparation for serving students online in FY13?

Start by thinking about your goals for online learning for the upcoming fiscal year.  How many students do you want to serve to consider yourself successful?

There are some things to think about when determining this number.  It should not just be arbitrary number, an “oh 15 sounds good” kind of thing.  You might need to look at your programs requirements, for example a college might have a number of students specified in order for an online class to be a go.   The teacher should be on your mind too. You should think about if the teacher is a seasoned veteran therefore is able to handle a larger online class roster.  Is the teacher new, so he/she has a learning curve related to teaching and learning online?  How will you get that teacher up to speed so he/she is ready to work with students?  How many students can a new teacher really handle?

My advice (based on our experience since 2002) would be to start small and grow your online learning offering.  There is always so much to learn when a new curriculum is introduced. The teacher must get familiar with it and that takes time. There are processes and procedures to be ironed out too.  Often times starting with a large number of students makes some of these things more difficult.  You know, almost like biting off more than you can chew.

What else should programs be thinking about when planning for FY13 and online learning?  What are your thoughts on this?

One thought on “What should you be thinking about this summer if you are new to online learning?

  1. From an i-Pathways program coordinator’s point of view, I agree that defining success in regards to the number of students your program plans or hopes to serve should definitely be a priority. I also agree that determining that number should not be just some random or necessarily even a large number. The initial planning stages should include a strategic projection of the number of students your program will serve. How does one go about strategically planning for implementing or growing a distance learning program? In in my experience with i-Pathways in an adult ed. program and in mentoring other adult ed. programs, I have found it especially helpful to brainstorm and formulate questions within the framework of these two points. 1. What are the benefits for adult ed. programs who choose a DL program? 2. How can I utilize a DL program to market to and better serve my target population?
    I need to consider the following questions with my staff and then analyze our answers. E.g., Why am I considering a DL program in the first place? If the only answer I can come up with is solely based on increasing my recruitment numbers, then I might be on the right track, but I am not seeing i-Pathways in its fullest potential. If my answer(s) are limited to say … only serving students that I currently have in the classroom who have qualifying grade levels, or if I plan to serve only those students who can’t attend a traditional classroom, then, I might need to broaden my view of who a distance learning program can and should serve. On the other hand, not every student that could be enrolled based on my enrollment criteria should be enrolled in a DL program either.
    To develop or improve perspective and understanding, start with this process and questions like these to re-evaluate your i-Pathways program. I stand firmly behind the idea that a good handle on these hows and whys are central to successful implementation, and more importantly, to the growth of i-Pathways in any program.

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