What technical/computer abilities should a student have to participate in an online class? Why are they necessary? How would you (or your institution) ascertain that these have been met?

‘The learning environment of an online course differs greatly from the traditional classroom bound environment. Skills like time management and self-discipline will surely help the online student, IT skills are equally important.’

Online learners that do not possess an ECDL or ICT literacy certificate would benefit from sitting for an online IT test. This way the online institution would be able to measure the level of IT literacy of the students, thus guiding them accordingly to achieve the necessary IT skills.

I looked for some foreign universities/ colleges that provide online learning to see how they address to this… They all address the importance of being IT literate but it was difficult to find an institution that actually provides a solution, meaning providing a course to obtain the necessary IT skills… maybe institutions don’t do this so not to discourage a student and therefore not losing income? 

At last managed to find this…

eg 1: “The following aptitude and minimum computer skills are recommended for students taking Web courses. Students are responsible for assessing their own skill level. Your instructor will not be teaching these skills as part of the course. If you do not possess these skills, consider taking a computer literacy course offered at Stark State College”

http://www.starkstate.edu/content/skills-needed-online-learning

As one can notice among the skills needed for online learning, this college highlights the importance of IT literacy but also offers a solution to this, however it seems that it is up to the student discretion; they are not testing the student but at least apart highlighting this needs they are supporting these needs by offering a literacy course themselves! 

All institutions are there to make business, thus I see IT illiteracy as another business opportunity. If institutions are enough business minded, they should be offering an IT literacy course to those who don’t possess these skills. This would render them more profit and also successful students! 

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In a typical 7-day week, how often do you expect an online student to log in and participate in the course? What would constitute participation? (discussion – module 2 – UOM course)

Myself as an online learner, knew that I will be needing to be able to dedicate enough time to log in with regularity, daily for at least an hour, participate actively in the discussions and ready to meet time frames for the given assignments. Work more on the subjects in the weekend (6 – 8 hours in the weekend). Obviously this is subjective to the level of study that one is doing. Exactly like it would be expected from me if I would have been attending to a traditional classroom setting.

All this, is exactly what I think it should be also normally expected from other students too, and when one starts to think to how many hours people are being hooked to social media, it’s a very clear indication that the time spent on social media can be spent more valuable, as in participating in the online learning one has enrolled for.  To justify what I started thinking, I then looked for tangible suggestions by universities etc, references are being made here under, (1) (2).

So then I also thought of looking for students experiences through online learning and in actual facts as it has happened in this study that I found (vide ref no 3  pgs 17 to 20) students more or less (most of time a bit less) dedicate the same amount of hours that I mentioned earlier.

In this study students are adult ones, which again goes to show that most of the time online learners will be adult students who must juggle the responsibilities of work and family, therefore motivation or as the students have recognise motivation as a need for discipline, obviously with online communication and assessment throughout the course. So here it goes, we have been addressing the need of motivating the student, the student must have innate motivation… guess the actual term should be framed as discipline is needed in order to succeed in the time management of online learning!

I’m putting the onus of responsibility and motivation on the adult learners here, it is also true that adult learners must be motivated to learn, however, the adult educator has the duty to maintain, develop and enhance this motivation. At times, s/he must create motivation when this is lacking in the students. Motivating learners is one of the key skills of the online instructor.

On my second week of my online course I ended absent in my participation, this was a perfect example for me that although I choose to be an online learner – my unpredictable working hours and being a parent with a child that needs continuous push in school matters – if I’m not disciplined and organised, all all this will still take its toll on this course!

‘You can take the horse to the river but you cannot make it drink’ – I like to use this expression as I find this very well suitable in the case of my child (who has very high IQ but lacks maturity to find a strategy in learning – the only way I finally found with him is being very disciplined and being there with him instead of my mum and pushing all the time!). In my job very similarly many adults that I train – I can see a distinctive attitude between those who want to receive info and those who don’t.

This idiom like to use it a lot of people who teach in a class setting too; experience from my better half who has been teaching and lecturing for about 20 years and these last 7 years he works with a private institute where teen’s parents pay a lot of money to study at this institution as their kids couldn’t make it to UOM so instead they are reading for UOL – he motivates them, even at an individual level and students really love him but only those who really want to learn make it – he coins out that the most successful ones are those whom their driving motivator is their aim in life and the need of the accreditation and especially those students who are working to pay their studies that succeed too!

So unless the students plan a study schedule to their online learning and strongly keep at it (disciple with themselves) won’t matter how much the educator can motivate them.

References:

(1) http://online.mpls.k12.mn.us/student_expectations

(2) https://gavs.gavirtualschool.org/helpdeskweb/index.php?/Knowledgebase/Article/View/73/0/how-often-are-students-expected-to-log-in

(3)  A Study Using Asynchronous  Online Focus Groups – Laura Burton, Ph.D. Diane Goldsmith Ph.D. Connecticut Distance Learning Consortium Funded by the Davis Education Foundation July 2002 https://www.ctdlc.org/ResourceDocs/evaluation/StudentExperience.pdf

Attached some more useful info about strategies for managing online courses.

http://www.facultyfocus.com/wp-content/uploads/images/report-11-strategies-for-managing-online-courses.pdf

https://onlinelearninginsights.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/five-step-strategy-for-student-success-with-online-learning/

What are the disadvantages of online learning ? (part 2 of discussion – Module 1- for UOM course)

In this article I agree with the author, that online learning might not be a perfect fit for every student, especially if they lack self-discipline, motivation, lack of written communication skills, lack of technological proficiency, etc.

In these cases students either will need to push themselves to work harder or definitely opt for a face to face learning program. Other options would be that they need to first sit for a foundation course in a class or possibly a foundation online course with more audio-visual kind of training (lessons are in a form of video).

My opinion about online learning is that these courses are a great opportunity for people who really wish to learn and acquire an accreditation but  have difficulties in being physically present in a class, however certain basic academic skills are required (and one should be tested upon). Online courses can save a lot of time and money to people. Example, parents that work long hours and they need to be home, this way they can study at their own peace, after kids have slept or before they wake up, etc.

http://study.com/articles/What_are_the_Disadvantages_of_Online_Schooling_for_Higher_Education.html

Visual learners need examples – they cannot learn through just reading or hearing,  they tend to have low attention span to focus… so basically they can be lost also during a class lecture…

So what if online learning is customized for them, with examples of videos related to what they need to associate the topic..? webinars are also an excellent way how to interact in a class setting from your home…

Certain subjects, irrelevant if the students can be good online learners, they would still need to attend to a class, since the job is a hands on one eg: medicine, art, gym instructor and so on…