Managing a Distance Learning Course
Introduction to Managing a Distance Learning Class
No matter how effectively you design your class and how much advance planning you do, your distance learning class may not be as successful as it could be if you donít manage it well during the actual course delivery. During your course you will need to manage student questions and problems, manage the flow of the course, and help your students stay on track. This is not to say that students should not be responsible for managing their own participation in the class. By taking a few simple steps, you can make it easier for both you and your students to get the most out of the class.
Benefits of Providing Feedback to Distance Learning Students
By putting time into managing your distance learning class, you will realize the following benefits:
- Students will be more likely to stay on task and contribute to the class.
- You may actually reduce your workload by responding quickly to questions or problems and anticipating student needs.
- You and your students will participate in a satisfying online course experience.
Strategies for Managing Your Class
The strategies listed below are best practices identified by instructors and distance learning experts. Not all of the strategies will be appropriate for each course, but many of them apply globally to most distance learning classes.
- Clearly set expectations at the beginning of your course. By setting clear expectations, you reduce messages from confused students and you provide students with guidelines on how they can manage their own success in the class. The best way to do this is to write a comprehensive syllabus. See the Writing a Syllabus for a Distance Learning Class topic for details on what to include in a syllabus.
- Clearly communicate changes in expectations, due dates, etc. in writing in your course site.
- Provide students with answers to frequently asked questions. Make an FAQ part of your syllabus or add it as a separate file.
- Pace the class by setting distinct dates for when specific content will be covered and discussed and for when assignments are due. Require students to stick to these dates so that they are more or less all at the same point in the course. If you do not structure your class in this way, you run the risk of students being at different points in your class, which leads to disjointed and ineffective class discussions and you may end up with more work as you respond to students working on different content and assignments.
- Keep an eye on student progress and contact students who donít seem to be keeping up. While it is important to make students responsible for their own success in the course, some students will struggle to keep up because they are adapting to the distance format or they are unclear on expectations. If you notice a student is not keeping up, a friendly email or call to encourage that student to participate may be all that is needed. If you reach out to a student and they then fail to participate or keep up with the course, you can feel free to leave the ball in their court. For help with tracking students, see the Working with Course Statistics in myWPI topic.
- Adapt within reason to special student circumstances and requests, but not at the expense of the learning experience.
- Respond to students in a timely manner (usually within 24 hours during a work week). See the Providing Feedback in Your Distance Learning Course topic for more information.
- Plan to check in on your distance learning class on a regular basis, daily during the work week, if possible. This makes it easier for you to manage messages, grading, discussion boards, etc. and it lets the students know that you are invested in the course and interested in seeing them learn.
Brandon, B. (ed.) (2005). 834 Tips for Successful Online Instruction. eLearning Guild. Retrieved May 26, 2006.
Brink, T. (2001, September). Online Teaching: Problems and Solutions. Observer, 14(7). Retrieved May 26, 2006.
University of Washington, Online Learning. (2004). Teaching a Distance Learning Course. Retrieved May 26, 2006.
Willis, B. (n.d.). Strategies for Teaching at a Distance. Retrieved May 26, 2006.
Last modified: Aug 15, 2006, 16:40 EDT