Google the keywords “online learning” and you’ll see there are over 3 million results.
With the ubiquity and accessibility of technology at our fingertips, many institutions have successfully moved the classroom to the computer. E-learning and online classrooms allow for both course creators and students to interact and connect even when they live thousands of miles away from each other.
One significant benefit, is that that online courses enable students to learn at their own pace, and also on their own time. Course material is available online 24/7, which can be extremely beneficial for busy people who have family and/or work commitments.
While asynchronous learning can be beneficial from a time-management standpoint, one aspect that can make online learning challenging, can be the lack of human-to-human contact. Some students may feel like they are in a silo if they are not be able to engage with other people in the program.
Adding a “human touch” to personalize the student experience and ensuring each learner is encouraged to engage and build relationships, can certainly help to drive inclusivity and help them feel to connected.
As the Program Facilitator for the Canadian Marketing Association’s Chartered Marketer Program, I act as a liaison between the students and the instructors. I regularly “check in” with the learners to provide any additional resources, make weekly announcements and/or answer any questions about the overarching program.
I play a neutral role to help motivate the learners by providing welcome messages, posting weekly reminders about upcoming assignments and I also can help students navigate through the course structure if they have any challenges.
One key element that helps our learners stay connected and learn from each other is through our weekly “Engage” discussion forum. Students are expected to answer specific questions and then participate in the conversation by providing feedback to their classmates’ posts.
We also host regular “Engage Live” webinars, where instructors host a real-time interview with other marketing experts. Students are encouraged to participate by asking questions and contributing to the conversation.
In real life, we aren’t expected to regurgitate theories in an isolated environment. We often work in teams to engage in problem-solving and project management with our colleagues. Why should the online environment be any different?
Even when we are connecting online, we are still connecting human-to-human.
By building online communities where each student feels connected, learners not only develop enhanced communication skills so they are able to convey messages effectively, but by engaging with the learner via multiple human touchpoints – facilitator, instructor and other classmates – interactions like these can make a significant impact on the course, their learning and their knowledge retention as well.