If you haven’t already checked it out, our Unknown Issues Podcast for this week officially introduced Taylor and me to campus as new members of the IDT team. We both talked a little bit about our experiences as online students, instructors, and course designers. As we begin our careers as Instructional Designers, Taylor and I have been thinking a lot about our experiences as online students. The learning experience for students provides inspiration for many of the design decisions we make about online courses, so we will often find ourselves designing the student’s shoes.
Both Taylor and I took online classes as undergraduate students here at Wichita State. I took a variety of classes (Women’s Studies, Theater, Geology, etc.) and really enjoyed the online experience. It gave me a lot of flexibility with my learning. During my undergraduate degree, I worked strange hours at a local bakery and found it difficult to balance my work schedule with my demanding schedule as a student. My online classes helped me to find a better balance between my various responsibilities. Later, as an online instructor, I found that many of my own students appreciated the flexibility of online courses as well. At the beginning of every course I teach, I ask my students to briefly introduce themselves to the class and explain why they chose to take the course online. A vast majority of my ENGL 210 Business Writing students choose to take the course online because of the flexibility it affords them. As a full-time employee, parent, spouse, coach, etc., the Wichita State student is a busy one. I found that asking my students to explain why they chose a certain course gave me good insight to their motivations as learners.
As you construct your own classes, it is important to remember how much students appreciate flexibility while learning online. This is one of the many reasons it is important to have a thorough class schedule prepared for students to view the first day they log-in to the course. As long as students are aware of what is coming, it is very likely you will not run into scheduling problems. Last minute changes to readings, assignments, projects, or due dates aren’t as easily communicated as they would be in a lecture class. If your online class involves group work, try to give students ample warnings and reminders of the upcoming schedule. Also, be aware that the amount of time you give students for a group project in a lecture class will most likely need to be increased for groups of online students.
The flexibility enjoyed by online learners can only be provided by instructors and designers who carefully craft detailed course schedules. In order for students to plan around their busy day-to-days, they need to be aware of their course schedule well in advance.