Learning online can be a transformative experience, especially if you're lucky enough to score a successful online educator.
We've compiled a list of 5 techniques that successful online educators employ, along with action items to help you get on track with your own courses. Feel free to add any we’ve missed to the comments. Enjoy!
1. Organize Courses According to Learning Objectives
Organizing courses according to learning objectives may seem like an obvious step for even beginners, but there are a shocking number of online educators that still miss the mark. Creating learning objectives helps educators organize and structure their courses, units and lessons.
Learning objectives need to be clearly communicated to students throughout the duration of a course, so students are more likely to achieve the goals associated with those objectives. When learning objectives are not clear or omitted altogether, educators run the risk of confusing, or even frustrating, students.
Action Item: Create course, unit and lesson learning objectives for all of your online courses. Consider using “Student will be able to” statements.
2. Ditch the Fluff
The last place a person hopes to encounter fluff is in a learning environment, especially if they're paying for it. Learners are busier than ever and face distractions both on and offline. Did you know that we receive 5x as much information today as we did in 1986?1) Alleyne, R. (11 Feb 2011). Welcome to the information age – 174 newspapers a day. TheTelegraph.
Successful online educators respect their students' time and ensure their content is valuable.
Action Item: Review your course content and replace any fluff with valuable content.
3. Use Stories
Successful educators and speakers have used stories to communicate and share ideas for centuries. When you tell a story, the listener is able to experience it as his or her own idea, connecting the premise of the narrative to his or her own understanding of the individual components. Buffer wrote a great article about this- check it out: What Listening to a Story Does to Our Brain.
Whenever you have a learner constructing their own ideas about something, you have a 'learning win.' Successful online educators are engaging storytellers that are always reaching for that next win.
Nancy Duarte gave an inspiring TED Talk about the secret structure to great talks, which relates closely to the task of teaching online via video lectures. Watch the video here!
Action Item: Review your course content and explore ways to incorporate stories!
4. Connect with Students
At our core is the desire to connect with other human beings. Whenever I take an online course, I first connect with the instructor via social networking sites. So not surprisingly, students who experience consistent, personalized communication with their instructor maintain a higher level of engagement throughout the duration of a course.
Successful online educators know they must go above and beyond when it comes to connecting with students, as the face-to-face option is often out of the question. This means social networking, message boards, online “office hours,” 1:1 video sessions and more. If you happen to be in a position to facilitate an in person gathering or seminar, do it!
Action Item: Create social networking accounts and begin connecting with students. Here's a useful guide to get you started.
5. Incorporate Visuals
Did you know that 50% of your brain is involved in visual processing?2) Merieb, E. N. & Hoehn, K. (2007). Human Anatomy & Physiology 7th Edition, Pearson International Edition. And that 70% of all of your sensory receptors are in your eyes?3) Merieb, E. N. & Hoehn, K. (2007). Human Anatomy & Physiology 7th Edition, Pearson International Edition. As human beings, we’re wired for visual learning. Thanks to advancements in technology, educators are now equipped with tools to tap into the visual needs of learners with relative ease.
Not only do successful online educators know how to effectively incorporate visuals into their course content, they make it a priority since students remember:
- 10% of what they hear4) Lester, P. M. (2006). Syntactic Theory of Visual Communication.
- 20% of what they read and5) Lester, P. M. (2006). Syntactic Theory of Visual Communication.
- 80% of what they see and do6) Lester, P. M. (2006). Syntactic Theory of Visual Communication.
Action Item: Review your courses and add more visual content. Think infographics, videos and slideshows.