What are some of your biggest challenges with online teaching? Here are some common problems that we hear about, and how you can easily avoid them.
1. The Absent Instructor. After all the upfront work required to prepare an online course, it can be tempting to let it run on “auto-pilot” once the semester starts. This is one of online students’ top complaints; they may feel isolated and alone in the online environment. The Fix: Communicate your presence early and often, with frequent announcements, content updates, and comments. Share your observations about student learning. Let students know you’re there and are actively monitoring their progress.
2. The Confusing Assignment. Vague assignment criteria in online courses can cause double trouble. First, students won’t know what you expect them to do, leading to frustration and paralysis. Then you may get an avalanche of emails requesting clarification. The Fix: Provide crystal clear criteria for each online assignment, including rubrics and examples. Try to anticipate what might cause confusion, and add details and FAQs to avoid this common problem.
3. The DFW. Online students are known to Drop, Withdraw, and Fail more frequently for predictable reasons. They might lack technology skills, or not yet have the discipline or time management abilities required for online courses. The Fix: Mitigate this by building a supportive learning community with Q&A forums, or optional live sessions where students can get help informally to stay on track and succeed. You can also check your Blackboard analytics (Performance Dashboard) to identify who’s not logging in, then reach out to them privately for support.
4. The Engagement Doldrums. Online students can quickly lose motivation to complete required work if the course is not engaging them, leading to more DFW problems. To Fix: Use adult learning principles to engage. Provide multimedia content options and open-ended discussions that foster new ways of thinking. Relate learning tasks to students’ professional experiences, and give several real-world challenges, problems, and project choices to get them excited.
5. The Contrived Discussion. Rigid post & reply discussion requirements can lead to stale responses and feed into negative online teaching stereotypes. The Fix: Make online discussions purposeful with meaningful experience-driven questions that encourage storytelling and genuine dialog. Students can also practice leading online discussions to demonstrate their team facilitation prowess and hone effective communication skills.
More information: How Not to Design Your Online Course, Design For Learning: 10 Best Practices