Topic 1: How to prevent students from feeling overwhelmed at the start of an online course?

This was one of the questions we answered as a group and the one that stuck with me.

The scenario for these weeks was of course that of our own. For me at least this was the most advanced online course I have ever attended. The choice of scenario was therefore brilliant as it was basically impossible not to think about our own experiences at this very moment. 

So how was my start of the course? I knew it would consist of pedagogy on a high level, which made my palms sweaty due to me not having a degree in it. But despite working in ICT I am part of a development project also working with the development of online learning, so I was pretty sure some good would come out of it. 

Due to especailly busy work weeks I hadn’t done more than the compulsory before the course start – received a welcoming email, registered on the website and had a quick look. Unfortunately I struggled to find the hierarchy in the website, which made finding the relevant information difficult.

Then came the introductory meeting and the first meeting with our PBL group. This was great. I was nervous beforehand as I’ve never been a big fan of group projects but this really felt like the way to start a course. The online courses I’ve taken earlier have all been without online meetings and there you just don’t get the feeling of being part of a group of people. You don’t feel obligated to finish the course and probably don’t learn as much either. Here we all were in the same boat and in a small enough group to dare to communicate with each other. If anything, I would have liked an even broader overview of the course, partly due to my own laziness and partly due to the website not being the most user friendly. What we did get was a good place and time to ask questions but the question I would have liked to ask was “what is it all about?”. I can’t say that this concern was a dealbreaker for me in any way but I did get the feeling that other learners had similar ones. Now one topic later I’m sure most learners are seeing the big picture.

This rough start was of course perfect for us to analyze in topic one. I already explained the concerns I had at the beginning of the course and briefly some solutions to them. During our group work we investigated this topic further. These are some actions we found that the teacher can do at the start of a course in order to prevent the concerns mentioned among learners:

  • Have the info and materials of the course as clear as possible and everything linked to one single, accessible page. 
  • Start off the course with a meeting where the big picture is explained as well as how the course is designed.
  • Create small PBL groups where the learners feel that they are all in the same boat and feel comfortable discussing openly. Set up online meetings regularly.
  • Have facilitators in every PBL group answer questions and guide the groups in the beginning of the course.
  • Have learners lead the discussion in the PBL groups for different topics

As you can see I think this is a great model that you’ve come up with. 

1 Comment

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  1. Very true, ONL is a great model in itself of how to run an online course

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