Friday, 18 December 2015

How You Can Help Students Adapt to Change in Online Classes

Expert Author Dr. Bruce A. Johnson
When students are assigned to an online class there is a general expectation that they will perform in a fairly uniform manner, which means they are expected to follow the rules, adhere to the school policies, and complete what is expected of them within the timeframe established. As instructors know, not all students are fully prepared to engage in the class or have all of the skills necessary to perform their best. There will likely be students, especially new or newer students, who will need to adapt in some manner and make changes of some kind. They may not even recognize that there are changes needed until it has been brought up by their instructor, through feedback or interactions in class.
The process of learning itself requires change regardless of the experience level of the student or the number of classes that they have taken. The very transition from one class to the next requires adapting to a new instructor, new expectations, new students, and possibly new procedures. When students are involved in learning it can easily change what they know, how they think, how they perform, and how they interact - especially in online classes. For example, students may believe they can communicate effectively in a virtual environment because of involvement in social media; however, that is a different form of communication and one that is often completed in short, abbreviated sentences. While you may not know every developmental aspect of your students, which is more challenging without the face-to-face interactions, you can still develop an approach to online teaching that helps reduce their resistance to needed changes.
The Self-Directed Nature of Students
The principle of adult education that explains how adults learn is known as andragogy, and it holds that adults are independent and self-directed in their ability to be involved in the learning process. However, that doesn't always mean they know what to do or what is best for them as students. For example, if I were to ask a group of students to tell me what they need to work on or their most critical developmental needs - they may or may not be able to accurately articulate what is needed unless they were to refer back to feedback I've provided. The next consideration then is whether or not that self-directed nature helps or inhibits their ability to adapt and change when needed. What often occurs is that it can create initial resistance, or stubbornness as some educators might call it, if they believe they know best or read something received from their instructor and it does not seem to apply to them. The attitude that a self-directed adult student holds is generally influenced by the relationship they have established with their instructors, which can be productive or antagonistic.
Why Change is Intimidating for Students
When students become aware of the need to change in some manner, especially when it involves changing habits, patterns of working, and/or established routines, they can have a variety of reactions. If they have been working in the same manner throughout their classes and received positive outcomes, they may question why they need to alter their approach now. Some students may have an emotional or reactive response, express their feelings tactfully or otherwise, or they may quietly withdraw and disengage from their class - if what they need to change seems unnecessary or too difficult. At the heart of any type of change is performing in a new or different manner, and it often can be challenging. It is also an admission that something is not being done now in the most effective manner. The instructor's approach has a definite impact on how students respond. If the tone of the feedback or communication is stern or threatening, students will likely feel intimidated and that is not the best approach for coaching them.
Three Change Management Strategies
Ongoing Instructor Support is Needed: At the center of most change initiatives by students is a behavioral process that occurs through a series of steps. The first step is to comprehend and understand what they are going to do, why they are going to try something different, and believe it will benefit them in some manner. To do this you need to help relate the need to adapt to the potential for positive outcomes and improved performance. The first attempt they make is usually the most important step in the process. If they experience positive outcomes, such as encouragement or new results, they will likely try again. This process will repeat itself until a new habit has been formed. However, if they make the first attempt and experience a negative outcome, such as criticism or nothing has happened that benefits them, they may stop, give up, quit, or disengage from their class.
Set Students Up for Long Term Success: If you are going to propose that students do something new or different, prepare them before they begin. This may include offering them resources or creating an action plan with them so they know the steps to take. You can establish checkpoints as a means of follow-up and checking in on their progress so they feel supported. If the suggestion you've made was noted in their feedback, offer to have a follow-up conversation with them to clarify the purpose and intent of your ideas. You also want to be available to answer any questions they may have and that extra effort on your part is particularly important given that they cannot see you in this virtual environment. Most of all, never give up on them even when they want to quit. Some students need a nudge or put in extra effort to get past mental barriers or a lack of self-confidence.
Provide Feedback that Coaches Students: One of the most effective and engaging methods of feedback is an approach that is focused on student strengths rather than deficits. Yes there will be issues to address so perhaps the sandwich approach to feedback can assist you and that begins with something positive, then addresses developmental issues, and concludes with another positive aspect - even if the only positive aspect of their performance you can find is the effort they have made. You can provide details to outline how you have assessed their performance and a rubric to provide a breakdown of how points were earned. If you have many issues to address, try selecting the most important or critical issues first so you don't overwhelm them. You want them to view the process of change as something that is done in steps. Instructors often believe that students don't read and implement the feedback provided so be sure to make yours meaningful and ask follow up questions as a means of engaging them.
The duration of most online classes provides instructors with a limited amount of time to get to know their students and work with them. They may not really develop a sense of their students' potential until they have had time to interact with them and review their performance. It is unlikely an instructor will know about prior feedback that students have received or if their performance is better or worse than it has recently been, which means an assumption should never be made that they don't know, they aren't trying, or they haven't been making any improvements. Instead of focusing on generalities, address the specifics of what you believe they need to change and present it in a manner that causes them to want to act - while knowing you have their best interests in mind. If you are asking students to adapt to your personal preferences and they do not see the benefits of trying what you've suggested, you may find yourself at odds with them. Every student has a potential to try something new but it is a matter of whether they will resist or make an attempt. Your relationship with them, and disposition about their development, will go a long way towards helping them adapt and learn that changes can benefit their work as a student.
Dr. Bruce A. Johnson has developed expertise with adult education and distance learning and his background includes work as an innovative online educator, college professor, writer and author, corporate trainer, and instructional designer.
To learn more about Dr. J's work as a professional resume writer, along with the resources that are available for educators and career development, please visit:

Thursday, 17 December 2015

6 Strategies to Help Online Students Overcome the Risk of Failure

Expert Author Dr. Bruce A. Johnson
The retention rate for online schools is low and there are many reasons why students discontinue their degree program, from the cost per credit hour to school policies and the quality of the courses offered. Instructors have little control over many of those factors but what they can help with is the classroom environment that they are responsible for maintaining. With every class students are at risk for failure because of the nature of a virtual environment and interactions with others. New students have the greatest risk and the most challenging learning curve. When students take their first class it is a time when their perceptions and expectations meet the reality of working in an online class. Every subsequent class requires adapting in some manner, to a new instructor and set of requirements. This creates a risk or possibility for students to fail.
All instructors, not just those who teach entry point classes, are responsible for nurturing the development of their students. This means that teaching is not just a function with a checklist of duties, it is a process that requires full engagement and support for the progress of every student. With online classes it is possible for students to gradually disengage, if they become frustrated or their motivation wanes. If an instructor doesn't notice a student's struggle or does but doesn't conduct some form of outreach, that student may disengage completely within a short period of time. There are proactive strategies an instructor can implement as part of their instructional strategy, to maintain awareness of class conditions and lessen the likelihood of students failing to complete the course.
Student Perceptions of Failure
Students start their classes with a variety of feelings. There is a sense of a fresh start, mixed with the possibility of uncertainty, apprehension, and/or anxiety - especially if they do not know their new instructor. The first week requires students to "hit the ground running" so to speak, and few begin by thinking they will fail unless they have determined they do not have the required academic skills and cannot develop those skills quickly enough. Students think about failure most when they put in what they believe to be their best effort and receive feedback that conflicts with that belief and/or they watch their cumulative grade as an indicator of their progress and it continues to decline no matter how hard they try. Some students are not bothered by less than perfect outcomes and others will believe they have failed if they did not earn all "A" grades. There is a perception that grades are somehow tied to a student's self-worth and that causes those students to give up easily when they perceive they have failed.
The Challenge of Academic Under-Preparedness
Many online schools have minimal entrance requirements for accepting new students, especially related to existing academic skills. Instructors in undergraduate entry point classes know this condition more than anyone else. It is possible to have students who are so academically under-prepared that the focus of the entire class is on learning the basic literacy skills. How well students are able to progress is directly related to their receptiveness to feedback, ability to cooperate, persistence in the midst of challenges, and the nature of the instructor. If an instructor demands compliance, rather than support and encourage development, it will create a barrier to progress that can set the stage for failure. The very first class, even the first few classes, will determine how well students become equipped to meet the academic rigors of their degree program. The support that the school and instructors offer is critical to helping prepare students for success.
What it Means to Be Accountable
Students are expected to follow the required policies and procedures, complete the required learning activities, perform to the best of their abilities, remain highly motivated, and be actively engaged in the learning process as an standard ideal. What instructors use as a guide for assessing how well students are meeting those expectations is what they can "see" in the classroom and that consists of class and discussion posts, along with the effort and attempt made with the learning activities. But to hold students accountable for these expectations, instructors must make them clear at the start of a class and encourage students to ask questions.
It is possible that expectations can vary from one instructor to another, which means instructors need to clearly communicate what they will hold students accountable for and provide both clarification and reminders on a regular basis. What may seem clear from an instructor's perspective may not be interpreted that way the first time a student reads it, especially during the first week of class when they are trying to read and process all of the new materials and information. One method I've used is to create a section in the course syllabus that outlines my expectations and then I will refer back to it on occasion, as a reminder for the students.
Strategies to Reduce the Risk of Failure
In order to help your students meet the required expectations, and help prepare them for success in their class, there are six strategies any instructor can include as part of their online teaching strategy, regardless of the subject taught.
#1. Establish Clearly Defined Expectations: If you expect students to follow your particular requirements then they need to clearly understand what you expect. You can add a section to the course syllabus that outlines your expectations, whether it is a specific number of days you expect them to participate or the use of sources to support the development of their posts and papers. When you post weekly messages, be sure to include reminders about these expectations when needed. One method I have used to reinforce the expectations for written assignments is to develop a rubric and provide it at the start of the class week.
#2. Work to Develop Open Communication: Working in a virtual classroom environment can be intimidating for some students, especially if they feel isolated from their instructor, so it is imperative that productive working relationships are established. This will encourage students to reach out and ask for help whenever they have a question or need assistance. Be certain to have a supportive and helpful attitude as the first time a student asks for assistance will determine if they are encouraged or discouraged from asking for help again. The tone used in all responses will be interpreted so I often read my posts and messages aloud to ensure they are as effective as they can be.
#3. Teach Students the Power of Self-Assessment: Instructors can help students learn to monitor their own progress, the skills and knowledge they have acquired, and the beliefs they hold about their ability to succeed. To monitor their progress I will teach students to use some of the formative assessment techniques, such as a one minute paper. To help students with the knowledge acquisition process I will teach them to use note-taking methods that they can then utilize later as a self-quiz. As to the development of skills, I make sure to note their accomplishments and progress in the feedback provided. Finally, I will talk about self-beliefs in messages I post and conversations I have with students - either by phone or through other one-on-one communication.
#4. Provide Feedback and Follow-Through: Providing a completed rubric or letter grade is never enough when it comes to supporting students and addressing their developmental needs. I provide interactive feedback that addresses both the content and the mechanics of what was written. I add in comments via track changes in a Word document and I share my expertise, experience, and additional thoughts. I also ask questions in my feedback as a means of engaging the students further and then I encourage them to ask questions. The purpose is to create interactive feedback that prompts follow-up with them. The follow-through is necessary whenever I have a student who is struggling, not making progress, making the same mistakes, or facing any other challenges. I want to make certain they have read the feedback and provide them with an opportunity to discuss their progress.
#5. Be a Teacher, Facilitator, Mentor, and Coach: Every instructor can lead the way for their students and be a guide that helps to support them in a servant leadership role. While many online schools like to call an instructor a facilitator, the many responsibilities that an instructor has involves much more than facilitating a process. Instructors need to be aware of how their students are performing and help them find resources when needed, teach them productive habits when it seems they cannot accomplish the required tasks each week, and offer support when they question their ability to do well or have self-doubts. All of these roles help to teach students to persist and it encourages a growth mindset.
#6. Conduct Outreach on an Ongoing Basis: While this will require extra time on the part of the instructor, it can certainly make a difference in the long term success of the students. Instructors must be aware of the class conditions and alert for students who are struggling and disengaging from the class so that they can be proactive in outreach attempts before it becomes a chronic problem that results in complete withdrawal from the class. I've found that an extra email or phone call goes a long way towards establishing a bond with my students and helps to bridge the distance gap with them. Most of the time one outreach contact in some form is enough to re-engage the students; however, there are some students who feel hopeless and believe that circumstances happen to them rather than having control over their own outcomes. Those students require much more patience and personalized attention, which some instructors do not like to do, but in the end I've found it is worth my time as it helps to address the needs of my students.
Failure is Inevitable
It is highly unlikely that every class will have a 100% retention rate, especially for online schools that have open admissions policies. However, through my work with online faculty development, and experience with online teaching, I have found that there is a direct correlation between the retention rate of a class and both the level and quality of the instructor's involvement. Clearly there are students who are not well-suited to the online classroom environment and this includes those students who are inflexible, uncooperative, and unwilling to adapt. But there are many students who are able to work successfully in a virtual class and if they experience challenges or frustrations the instructor's presence and assistance can prevent disengagement. Students respond well to an instructor who makes the extra effort to guide their development and they become more receptive to coaching and feedback. If an instructor cares about how they teach, as much as what they teach, it is possible to reduce the risk of student failures.
Dr. Bruce A. Johnson has developed expertise with adult education and distance learning and his background includes work as an innovative online educator, college professor, writer and author, corporate trainer, and instructional designer. Dr. J's areas of expertise include online teaching, online learning, distance learning, e-learning, adult education, curriculum development, and online faculty development.
To learn more about Dr. J's work as a professional resume writer, along with the resources that are available for educators and career development, please visit:

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

5 Strategies That Create Conditions to Promote Online Learning

Expert Author Dr. Bruce A. Johnson
It may seem that learning online should be (or could be) as effective as traditional classroom learning. In almost every online class, resources and materials are provided for the students, there are asynchronous (and occasionally synchronous) discussions, and then assessments are given to determine if progress has been made with meeting the required learning objectives. Students aren't required to sit through a lecture and instead they can study at their own convenience. But important elements are missing in a virtual classroom, such as face to face interactions that provide visual and verbal cues, and that makes the distance factor a significant challenge.
So what can an instructor do to ensure that learning occurs in a virtual environment? Most online classes contain a fairly standard structure, even with varying learning management systems, and many online schools provide pre-programmed courses for instructors to use that are developed with established learning objectives, course materials, and a variety of learning activities. However, creating a course and adding the content does not automatically guarantee that students are going to be engaged and learn something because of their involvement. Learning is influenced by the conditions an instructor creates and interactions they have with their students. Most experienced online instructors know that learning is a process that must be nurtured and teaching is not just a function to complete.
Students and a Virtual Classroom
Consider the students' experience when they first enter a virtual classroom. They need to navigate through the classroom, find the required materials, and become highly motivated to keep up with the discussions and assignments. Most learning management systems have evolved over time to make the user experience easier but the ability of a student to learn in this environment requires more than how they are able use the technological tools. Students need to be able to feel connected to the class, believe the course will meet their specific academic and/or career needs, obtain assistance when needed, and develop meaningful relationships with their instructors. What can hinder this process and reduce the potential for learning is the reliance on written words as the primary form of communication. The classroom can then become almost mechanical in nature for students and discourage them from being fully engaged and working towards peak performance.
Instructors and a Virtual Classroom
Instructors have many responsibilities that begins with knowing the subject matter they are required to teach and then they must manage the classroom efficiently and effectively. This includes completing the required facilitation duties, participating in discussions, providing feedback, and managing relationships. But one of the most important responsibilities is creating an environment that is conducive to learning. There are factors that can work against the instructor, from a poorly designed course to a lack of engaging resources, which cannot be easily corrected. Even if the classroom has been perfectly constructed an instructor must still be actively present and proactively working to create a positive experience for students. It is easy for students to disengage from an online class and if the instructor is not closely monitoring conditions, and doesn't notice a student who is withdrawing, it may be too late to re-engage them back into the class. This speaks to the nature of learning, which can be easy for some students and challenging for others - especially if they lack fundamental academic skills.
5 Strategies to Create Optimal Conditions
I have been actively involved in online faculty development and I have discovered that a majority of instructors can effectively manage their class and meet the required expectations. What I have also found is that approximately 25% of the instructors I've worked with perform above and beyond the minimal requirements, just as I have always tried to do as an online educator, to exceed the minimum requirements and create an engaging environment. While it may seem that these strategies should be used by all instructors, some prefer to complete only what is required and while that is acceptable it does not lead to an optimal learning experience.
#1. Develop Engaging Discussion Posts:
Most online classes have some form of discussions, typically each week of the class. The requirements for instructors usually involve a specific number of days that they are to required respond to students and the quality of those posts may or may not be specifically stated in their contract. What an instructor's discussion response can do is to engage students in the topic, expand upon what they have written, prompt critical thinking and a deeper understanding of the course topics, and help students connect the topics to real world situations and issues. The challenge is taking the time to craft responses that accomplish these goals and it requires being able to post something more than a quick reactive response. It is helpful to acknowledge something that each student has written, build from it, and conclude with a question that prompts their intellectual curiosity. When a post is substantive and engaging the dialogue with students is likely to continue.
#2. Be a Facilitator, Educator, and Teacher:
The work of an online instructor has been referred to by many names, including facilitator, educator, and teacher. While some online schools prefer the word facilitator, the work that an instructor performs involves much more than facilitating a process. A teacher is someone who can help students acquire the necessary academic skills and have the patience necessary to guide and direct them as they work towards improvement of their developmental needs. An educator is someone who understands the basics of adult learning and knows some of the theories that can inform their work. As instructors develop their knowledge base about adult education they are transformed and become an educator. Some faculty are hired because of their subject matter expertise but that does not automatically guarantee they can be effective as an instructor. When an instructor is able to facilitate, educate, and teach, their effectiveness in the classroom becomes apparent in all aspects of their work.
#3. Provide Feedback That Prompts Reflection:
Instructors know that students need more than a letter grade to prompt their continued development and this aligns with the premise of self-directed adult learners who want to be involved in the learning process. Students want to know why they earned the grade received. If they use grades as their primary source of motivation it becomes important to teach them to focus on more than their grades and instead understand the meaning of those grades and what can be learned from it. To do this the feedback needs to address the content of what was written, along with the mechanics, and be done in a manner that encourages their progress. What some instructors rely upon, typically when there is little time available, is canned comments or quickly written commentary. Feedback is most effective when it causes students to become further interested in the topics and more importantly, when they reflect upon their work and academic progress. When students are engaged in the feedback process they are more likely to be responsive to what their instructor provides and learn from it.
#4. Be Actively Present and Engaged:
There is a misconception that an instructor cannot help students if they cannot see them. But an instructor can bridge the distance gap and create conditions that are conducive to learning. What I've learned through my online teaching experience, and background working with faculty, is that students can easily disengage from the class and if it isn't noticed right away it may be too late to re-engage them. There are many reasons why students disengage and it may not be easy to know exactly why when working in a virtual classroom For example, when students become frustrated or lose motivation they may begin to slowly withdraw and if an instructor is actively present they will notice the absence of those students. What I've also observed is that student performance is often directly influenced by the level of engagement of the instructor. An instructor's virtual presence is also a social presence that builds a sense of community among students that helps to keep them engaged and interested in the class.
#5. Develop Effective Communication Techniques:
The primary form of communication in an online classroom consists of written posts and messages. Interactions and relationships in a virtual class are also based upon written words. A challenge that this presents is that messages and posts are then subject to interpretation, along with a perceived tone and intent of the message posted. Since messages are sent asynchronously it means that the instructor is not present to ensure the message was interpreted correctly. While written words are not the most effective method of communication it is still possible for students to develop a perception about the instructor's disposition towards helping them.
What this means is that anything an instructor decides to post needs to be done from a position of care and concern, rather than from feelings of frustration or an emotional response or reaction. It can be helpful to create posts first, perhaps in a Word document, and that will help to manage the mechanics and tone of what is written. If a negative emotional reaction is experienced due to something a student has posted it would be better to delay any form of response until it can be approached from a logical and rational perspective. This helps to develop productive working relationships and model effective communication for students to follow.
Teach Students the Potential for Distance Learning
When instructors are actively present and engaged in their online courses it helps to bridge the distance gap with their students and it can also teach them the powerful potential of distance learning, along with the value of education. An instructor's involvement, which is their active online presence, influences how students respond to the virtual classroom environment, how well they perform, engage in the class, and stay motivated. Online teaching is not just a function and a matter of checking duties off of a list. The work that an instructor does, as an educator, teacher, and facilitator, also determines how effective the learning process occurs and development of conditions that are conducive to learning need to be nurtured from week to week, until the class concludes. Once a new class starts, the need for developing the same type of environment begins again. Just as learning is never a one-time event, so too is the art and skill of online teaching. Students will learn best when they are in an environment that encourages them to do so and this is in direct control of their instructors.
Dr. Bruce A. Johnson is an innovative educator with experience in higher education as an online instructor and college professor, along with work as a corporate trainer and manager of a corporate training development.
Dr. J has developed expertise in his career with adult education, distance learning, online teaching, faculty development, and organizational learning.
To learn more about the books and resources that are available for professional development from Dr. J please visit:

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Want to Accelerate Your Leadership Development? 4 Reasons to Try Blended Learning

Expert Author Richard Lepsinger
Employees today often have schedules that leave little time for training. Between meetings and tight deadlines, many do not have enough hours in their workday to squeeze in classroom time. Yet if they don't devote ample time to developing their skills, they'll never progress into the well-rounded leaders you need to support your company's future growth. Fortunately, technology has propelled training to the next level through blended learning programs, which combine in-person courses with instructor-led online programs and self-paced methods such as e-learning.
While many organizations may be familiar with blended learning, not all may understand how it can benefit their company.
If your company is considering blended learning but haven't made the leap yet, here are four reasons why you should.
It's Flexible and Scalable
Blended learning allows busy leaders with little time to spare to break up their courses into shorter blocks of time, versus spending hours in a classroom. While there may be some in-person training required, other on-the-go tutorials are available online, which leaders can fit into their lunch breaks, listen to during their commute, or complete in between meetings. Breaking instructor-led online sessions into 60-90 minute sessions is ideal for most participants, providing them opportunities to hone their skills without traveling or leaving their desk. Knowing they are not confined to a classroom can help them complete training more quickly.
Learners who are self-motivated can also take advantage of a number of self-directed webinars and videos offered at little or no cost through websites such as: Harvard Business Review, HRDQ-U, OpenSesame, and ATD
Participants can easily access many of these programs wherever they are, whether they're on a tablet waiting at the airport or on their smartphone between meetings.
The flexibility of blended learning also makes it easy to scale as your company grows. Traditional classroom learning may work fine with a group of 16-20 people who are all under the same roof, but it's much more difficult to replicate across regions or internationally.
It's Affordable
Every company wants to save money and stay within their budget. In fact, some companies may turn to blended learning with that goal in mind. Choosing blended learning can reduce or eliminate the cost of employee travel and other expenses related to training, such as lodging and meals. It also substantially reduces instructor fees and the cost of renting a venue. In addition, employees lose less time and productivity during the workday when they can take courses for an hour or two at a time, rather than spending several days traveling to and participating in an on-site program.
It Combines the Best of Traditional and e-Learning Approaches
People are naturally social creatures. While humans are capable of learning from manuals and recordings, they also learn a great deal from one another. This interaction encourages students to open their minds to other perspectives and can help them retain and apply what they learn. It's one of the main advantages of classroom-based learning.
Instructor-led online or self-directed e-learning, however, has a number of advantages of its own. Aside from flexibility and affordability, it can reduce the competition that's inherent to classroom learning and help learners stay focused on their own performance, rather than on their peers.
Blended learning allows employees to benefit from the advantages of both traditional and online learning environments. Additionally, online forums, interactive chat sessions electronic break-out rooms and other features allow employers to replicate many of the same characteristics and advantages of in-person classroom learning online.
Your Competitors Are Likely Already Using It
Today, 77 percent of U.S. companies offer online corporate training to improve professional development, according to Christopher Pappas, founder of The eLearning Industry's Network. In fact, the online corporate market is expected to grow by 13% per year through 2017. Nearly 30 percent of all corporate training was delivered using blended learning methods last year, according to the 2014 Training Industry Report. Some of the fastest-growing countries in the world are adopting some form of blended learning as a best practice, with India and China leading the way.
Thanks to technology, companies can offer their employees more flexibility when it comes to training. Leaders can keep up their credentials more efficiently and companies can keep their costs down.
Ready to get serious about blended learning? OnPoint offers several affordable e-learning courses you can easily incorporate into your existing leadership development programs. Learn more about our programs on virtual leadership and working across organizational boundaries.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Types And Styles Of Learning: Helping Learners Learn Better

Expert Author Gireesh K. Sharma
Learning enthusiasts are continually conducting various researches on the vast area of learning techniques that are adopted for different types of learners. If we understand these very well, it will be easier for us to create learning content, which suits a particular type of learner best. This will be a huge benefit that leads to actual ROI of training budgets. There are mainly two modes of delivery - asynchronous and synchronous e-learning. Asynchronous learning is when the learner is not led into a specific learning pattern or pace and is free to choose his or her own way through the learning content. Synchronous learning is when the learner is taken ahead on the learning course by a teacher or instructor, and the learning is structured as per the best devices of the instructor/teacher. But what do we adopt to get the best results?
Asynchronous learning is one way that a learner learns in an e-learning environment. This mode is backed up by collaborative tools like e-mails or discussion boards. So, while the learners take their own course and pace through the learning material, the option for interaction is always open - within the learner group as well as with the instructors. The interaction or any contribution is refined, for it is not spontaneous, but thought out.
Synchronous learning, on the other hand, is through 'participation in the social world'. With help of social media such as Chat or Web conferences the learners, with or without an instructor comes together and learns. This is closer to traditional classroom teaching, the premise behind this mode being that learning is a social phenomenon. 'Isolation' of the learner, which is pegged down as the main reason why drop-outs occur in online courses, is avoided by continuous contact and the feeling of being part of a learning community.
The main benefit of Asynchronous learning is that most of the communication held in this channel is content-related. This backs up the theory that asynchronous learning increases the learner's ability to process information. But planning activities and social support is minimal, raising the issue of isolated learning and how it can eventually dissuade or discourage learners.
Benefits of a synchronous channel of learning is that there is room for discussions, increasing the 'community' feel in learning. While some of the topics can be far removed from course content, and could be considered diversion by some, synchronous learning allows flow of information and increases motivation and involvement of the learners with the content.
So, coming back to the question, when to use asynchronous learning and when to utilize synchronous learning? We can utilize asynchronous learning when reflecting on complex issues or detailed content. It is also a good idea to adopt this way of e-learning when actual meeting cannot be arranged. It is best to adopt synchronous learning when you need to discuss less complex issues or get acquainted with the learners. These sessions can also be utilized to plan tasks to move ahead in the curriculum.
In conclusion, both Synchronous and Asynchronous modes of learning compliment each other. This is an indication to the training instructors as well as e-learning developers to provide opportunity for both in different learning activities. The emergence of newer types of media is also a positive indication towards this - while this paper discusses some asynchronous (e-mails, blogs etc) and some synchronous (chat, video conferencing etc.) modes of communication, there are only going to be more evolved types of media that can be utilized to support both kinds of learning.
With more options available, it is a brighter future for learning as a whole.
Gireesh is an e-learning enthusiast and an avid follower of leading industry blogs related to topics related to online training software like Rapid Authoring, game based learning, LMS, online learning courses, Mobile Learning, etc. and like to discuss leading trends of new-age corporate learning.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Five Strategies Instructors Can Use to Help Students Who Lack Motivation

Expert Author Dr. Bruce A. Johnson
Developing conditions in an online classroom that are conducive to learning is challenging enough for instructors but then add to that the need to help students stay motivated and interested in the class, and their work is becomes even more time consuming and difficult to manage. There is a belief among some educators that it is not possible to help students that you cannot see, especially with a quality such as motivation that cannot be visually assessed in a virtual environment. But a student's level of motivation will influence all aspects of their involvement, from their engagement in the class to their participation in class discussions and completion of learning activities such as written assignments.
With the many demands made of an online instructor it is possible that classroom management can become the primary focus and that consists of tasks such as participation, feedback, acquiring class materials, and developing class lectures or posts. It can then become fairly easy to miss a student who is gradually disengaging from class until it is too late. This includes knowing when a student is lacking a sense of self-motivation or does not know how to sustain it when they are feeling discouraged, frustrated, or challenged. While students are expected to be self-directed by nature as adults it doesn't mean they are equipped to meet the many demands of a student and that is why an instructor must be prepared to identify their needs and have motivational strategies to assist them.
Are There Indicators For An Instructor?
It is possible for an instructor to gauge the level of involvement of their students in a class by the number of times they have posted responses in the discussion threads and the perceived amount of effort that is put into their written assignments. But that doesn't necessarily mean it is possible to accurately gauge how motivated the students are when an attempt of some kind is being made to complete their work. The reason why is that motivation is an internalized state and challenges are acknowledged through statements such as "I'm not certain I can do this" or "this is too hard" or "this isn't what I expected I would have to do" - anything that will result in a student deciding to give up, quit, or eventually withdraw from the class or their degree program. An instructor will know that this is happening if they have developed open communication with their students and as a result they are willing to share their frustrations and concerns.
Do Students Intentionally Become De-Motivated?
When students are struggling in their class it can be easy to first assume that they are not trying hard enough, they aren't utilizing the feedback provided, they haven't read the assigned materials, or any other number of possible reasons - without being able to pinpoint exactly what they are experiencing. At the beginning of class most students have the highest level of enthusiasm and a sense of hope about a new start, even if there is some anxiety or apprehension mixed in. It is when they attempt to participate in the class that determines how long that excitement is sustained and there are many factors that can have a negative impact, including a lack of academic skills, feedback they do not accept or understand, a subject that is too difficult to comprehend or does not seem relevant to their lives, or receiving a grade they do not believe they should have earned. This causes an eventual decline in performance and one that may not be intentional or even consciously recognized until an instructor addresses it.
5 Strategies to Help Your Students
Instructors may not always know with certainty why students are struggling but at the heart of most issues is a willingness to keep trying and work on continued self-development, even when it requires them to acquire new knowledge or skills. What instructors can do is to develop a set of proactive instructional strategies that are encouraging in nature and supportive of students' attempts and progress. The following five strategies have been implemented in my own teaching practice and what I have helped to coach online faculty with through my work with faculty development.
#1. Build Productive Relationships. While this should go without saying for any class, whether it is a traditional or online class, relationships with students always matters. It can have a direct impact on their ability to feel comfortable asking for assistance when needed and that can alert the instructor to potential problems. But developing this type of relationship in a virtual environment isn't easy and a class that lasts only a few weeks can make it even more difficult. How a relationship begins is with the attitude an instructor holds and it continues with an ongoing intent to be helpful and approachable. Students must know that their instructors care about them.
#2. Carefully Manage Your Communication. All forms of communication that instructors have with their students matter and must be cultivated with care that the intent of message is clearly made and the tone is not likely to be perceived in a negative manner. When responding to a student, whether by email or a post in the classroom, it should not be done hastily or when an emotional reaction is felt. The reason why this is so important is that a negative interaction can be de-motivating to a student and a series of these types of interactions can cause a student to disengage from the class.
#3. Be Present, Available, and Accessible. If students are to stay engaged in the class and perform to the very best of their abilities they need to know that their instructor is readily available to assist them whenever they need help. This doesn't mean that an instructor has to be on call at all times or answer questions as soon as they are posted; however, there needs to be an established pattern that students can rely upon. I've found it helpful to have multiple methods of contact that includes email, instant messaging, weekly office hours, sharing my phone number for times when students need immediate assistance, and posting a questions thread in the classroom. This allows me to develop connections with students and it can be very motivating for them to know I am accessible.
#4. Help Make Certain that Students are Adequately Prepared. I've found that academic under-preparedness can be extremely detrimental to the mindset that new students hold as they attempt to navigate the course and the requirements they are expected to complete. Even as established students make progress through their degree program they may still struggle with areas of development that can create a mental barrier and ultimately lead to a sense of defeat if they do not receive assistance. What I've done is to share resources that address students' specific developmental needs in the feedback provided and if I find sources that may benefit the entire class I'll share it in a separate classroom post. I've found that the more students feel equipped to complete their tasks, the more confident they will be as they make an attempt to do so.
#5. Develop and Use Proactive Outreach Strategies. It is imperative that an instructor always be aware of the classroom conditions and more importantly that they are aware of students who are not actively involved and present in class. It may be helpful to establish a mental baseline for expected performance and over time an experienced instructor develops an instinct for student engagement. A discussion thread is one way to gauge if students are disengaging from the class. When I discover a student who isn't posting messages or they are continuing to struggle with their written assignments, I'll make outreach attempts. First I'll send an email and try to engage them and if that isn't successful I'll make a phone call so that the student doesn't completely disengage from class. I've learned that a personalized approach will go a long ways towards helping students sustain their self-motivation.
Sources of Motivation
Most research about motivation points to the sources of motivation, both internal and external. This means that students may be motivated by a sense of accomplishment (internalized) or a grade (externalized). With a limited amount of time available to get to know students, instructors may never know exactly what the source of motivation is for every student or be able to develop techniques to meet their individual needs - especially when classroom management and instructional duties require a significant investment of time. What instructors can do is to address self-motivation as a driving factor for the engagement of all students in a class and use the strategies provided to help students feel empowered to succeed rather than become easily discouraged and willing to give up. When instructors bridge the distance gap and connect with their students they will notice the results in the effort made and the performance level maintained throughout the class, which is directly related to their sustained self-motivation.
Dr. Bruce A. Johnson is an innovative educator with experience in higher education as an online instructor and college professor, along with work as a corporate trainer and manager of a corporate training development.
Dr. J has developed expertise in his career with adult education, distance learning, online teaching, faculty development, and organizational learning.
To learn more about the books and resources that are available for professional development from Dr. J please visit:

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Do Trainers Make the Worst Students? Invest in Yourself and Improve As a Learning Professional!

Expert Author Katy Caselli
Are you interested in breaking into the training and development industry? Are you wondering how to get started? Or are you already in the profession, but struggling to help your organization put training on the agenda, allocate resources or provide the support needed to even get started? Do you want to have engaged, active students who use their new skills and knowledge to make big improvements to their organization? The answers to these problems and more are out there!
First: Some Hints if You Are Just Getting Started:
• Ask to work with employees who are already in a training role (we always need help). This will give you an inside scoop on key concepts learning and development professionals use frequently, and give you some solid experience.
• Learn about building credibility, improving your presentation skills, and designing effective training programs. Look for a few entry level certifications, such as in Instructional Design, Technical Training, or Creativity in Training.
• Ask your leader if you can start to help solve certain business problems with learning as a solution, then take a short, targeted course and start drafting a plan.
• Volunteer as an instructor or presenter. Try schools, hospitals, elder care facilities, non-profit groups and museums to gain practice, poise and confidence.
More Self-Investment Ideas:
Companies need experienced experts to step up from within organizations to act as instructors. You are standing on a mountain of experience, skills, insight and other abilities. If you are interested in going from "Subject Matter Expert" to "Expert Instructor" or to rise in title from Training Coordinator to Training Consultant, Training Specialist or Training Manager, then start a "Self-Investment" attitude, and set learning and development plans for yourself! Determine what you need to become better at instruction, training design, determining training effectiveness or building credibility by showing results. Do you need to be better at influencing others? How about creative training techniques? Designing assessments and post-course work assignments for students? How about needs assessment?
There are some amazing resources out there! There are thousands of articles, blogs and consultants online. How about eLearning classes, books, mentors, and associations? Conferences, certifications and benchmarking are also valuable ways to dig deep into a particular subject. The point is to not stop looking for opportunities to grow stronger in your profession. The more confident you are of your skills and technique, the more you can help others to learn and develop.
Here is another great way to get better! (And, best of all, it is free!). Ask for genuine feedback.
Ask someone you know and trust, a professional who is supportive of your career, to give you constructive feedback on your next presentation or learning session. Ask them to take notes on clarity, lesson organization, stance, demeanor, and tone. How is your use of eye contact, filler words (like aah and umm), and other mannerisms? Did you seem credible, polished, and prepared, or distracted and nervous? Meet in private after the presentation for their report and be sure to thank them for their time and effort. Feedback truly is a gift that can enhance your career for the better. Alternately, set up a video camera in the back of the room and see for yourself how you do.
Training in organizations will always be a need, though the resources and priorities are often cut during poor economies. I have stayed in the profession despite downturns in organizations over the last 17 years. The key for me was showing concrete results from training, though business measures that proved I was saving the company time, quality rejects, safety incidents and especially money. So as a trainer, no matter how busy it gets, find ways to gain experience, education, credibility, make training effective and generally become a valuable and trusted "performance advisor" to your company.
Visit For low cost training courses especially for training professionals, and use coupon code BuildGiants for a 30% discount. A quick win for trainers: learn best practices and draft your plan to correct organizational problems in a single afternoon!