Third post: requirements for learners and instructors, are they so different?

This is part of the week 2 assignment where w e examine the needs of our learners and ourselves. I am going to post these for you to contemplate and to sere as another part of the  gauge to see where this blog is going and where it is taking me, personally and in terms of the course, I still have no idea but imagine that as a certain amount of time passes a pattern will emerge. I know that I am still not intimately connected with this medium as yet, but I will try harder, will make it work out…

First some things about the students

I am in a unique position as my learners come from a wide set of backgrounds. Somewhat like Lilia they are from all over the province (and in a few cases across the country).

There is wide variability in what they do and the hours they work:

  • some are shipboard personnel who work a 28 day on / 28 day off cycle, 12 hours per day;
  • some are shore side who work a 2,3 or 4 week rotation at lifeboat stations and must be available 24/7,
  • some are shore based and work a ‘regular’ job from 0800 – 1600

There is wide variability in their educational backgrounds:

  • some are university educated;
  • some have technical school backgrounds,
  • some have Grade 12 and some do not

There is wide variability in their work areas:

  • some work on ships up and down the coast and in the Arctic in the summer season;
  • some at lifeboat stations, some of those quite remote (Bella Bella for instance);
  • some at lightstations, in most instances quite remote, removed from technological access by factors such as weather.

So, the first several questions are fairly easily answered: they are a diverse bunch, with varied educational needs and limited technological access in a lot of cases. This produces challenges for both the designer/instructor and student as there are certain things which just cannot be changed or made easy, depending on the technical content of what you might be teaching. Assessment for any course is one of the key components, we all know that intuitively, and are careful to design tools which help us see where our students are lagging behind or not absorbing the lessons.

Some signs that might indicate learners struggling with course content might include:

  • particpation for the first portion of the course then tapering off or no attendance at all;
  • assignments started but not finished or not started at all;
  • students not communicating with the instructor;
  • students not participating in course forums or posting on message boards.

I have given a lot of thought about strategies to deal with this type student frustration, but aside from the normal things one would contemplate: an easily navigated & understandable LMS, course content made easy and seamless, understandable course outcomes and expectations, regular communications where possible, and  trying to encourage student community I am at a loss.

This is a diverse, committed, truly vibrant community of people and I want to do the best I can for them to remove the sense of isolation which can be a fairly common occurrence. Any one have further suggestions?

Michael’s online learning needs

Some things I need to make my online course go along well are:

  • An easily navigated LMS which doesn’t crash and is intuitive to use;
  • Links to sites and videos etc., which all work and are updated promptly as needed;
  • A clear statement of course expectations;
  • Feedback mechanisms for both student and instructors;
  • Timely assessment of assignments;
  • Access to the instructor at reasonable times which work for everyone;
  • The early establishment of a sense of community amongst students and the instructor;
  • Appropriate online resources: ebooks, links, videos etc.,
  •  Encouragement of online meetings between students where possible.

So what is the point of all this? Students are individuals, who come from diverse backgrounds educationally,  culturally and age related.  They have different varied needs but one of the common needs they have is to get the most they can from our courses. We can learn from our needs for this course (they seem to be remarkably similar for most people in  the course) and apply those things to our design process when developing course material later.

It is our obligation to provide the best we can for our students, however varied their ages, education or cultural background: an educational environment which is free from bias, welcoming,  enriching, stimulating and  free from barriers to learning. It is our task and our challenge to provide this environment as best we can.

A quote for today:

The principle goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done; men and women who are creative, inventive and discoverers, who can be critical and verify, and not accept, everything they are offered.
Jean Piaget

Now on to the assignment. Joanne, I am trying hard to keep mt oar in but this is proving a challenge. I may be a bit late with the assignment (i.e.: tomorrow morning) but it will be done…

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