Last year I had the privilege to design a fun new Google Apps course where the students would get a free ChromeBook after the course. It was a brilliant way to get technology into the hands of students. After we announced the course, dozens of students showed up to my classroom to ask me questions and share their concerns. Even though they worded their concerns differently the same few questions kept resurfacing:
“Will it be as bad as those other online classes?”
Students want to see quality
When these students heard the words “online course” the words UGLY, SLOW, BUGGY and BORING jumped to mind. I’ll admit, the first online class I took was all text, multiple choice quizzes, and a few lame photos thrown in for good measure. Students want to know that this will be a great experience for them and that their eyes won’t bleed from boarded.
“Will I have to read a ton of text”
Students want to be engaged.
People crave learning things that excite and inspire them. Creating an online course with lots of text is the fastest way to get content online, but the quickest way to loose your audience. As soon as I told my students that 90% of the learning would take place on short YouTube videos, they relaxed. Video is one of the best way to engage students in online learning.
“I hardly have any free time”
Students want bit sized pieces.
Students are some of the busiest people I know. They go to school, they have activities before school, sports after school, and their part time jobs fill in what’s left. When they say “I’m worried I won’t have time”, that is a legitimate concern. I aim to have my videos only 2-3 minutes long. Why? It’s better to have 10 short lessons that students use, than 1 large lesson that students skip.
“Will it be hard”
Students want to learn at their level.
When the first student asked me if it would be easy, the physics teacher in me was I was a little hurt. But then I understood what was really being asked. Students want to know that they won’t be over their head. They want to know that it will start off with things they are familiar with, and guide them onto new and exciting things. A properly designed online course will seem easy. This isn’t because it won’t teach difficult material, but because the material starts off familiar and gradually introduces new content. That’s another advantage of splitting your course into bit sized pieces; students move on once they have mastered the content.
Resolve their doubts
To help resolve their doubts I had an introduction lesson in the cafeteria. More than half of the high school crammed into the cafeteria to learn about this exciting course. I showed them the site, answered their questions, and sent anyone interested to sign up. The result? Over 50% of the eligible student population signed up! It was the most successful online class ever run in the school division, and now our students have their very own devices. What a Win-win!
What are your concerns about online learning? Share your thoughts!