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Communication Strategies for Successful eLearning Design

 

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SUMMARY

Effective communication is paramount in the realm of e-learning and instructional design, primarily relying on text as the primary means of interaction in online courses. Inadequate clarity in instructions from instructors can be a significant source of frustration and confusion for learners. Thus, meticulous course planning to ensure comprehensibility is essential. This summary explores ten strategies aimed at fostering a robust connection between educators and students in the online learning environment, emphasizing the critical role of communication in enhancing student satisfaction and outcomes.

Why is communication so pivotal in e-learning? Lack of personal contact with instructors consistently ranks as one of the most significant challenges in e-learning. This dearth of personal interaction often leads to feelings of isolation, lack of support, and reduced completion rates. To mitigate these issues, improved communication between students and instructors is crucial. Students need accessible avenues to reach out for clarifications, express concerns, and receive feedback.

Instructor-student communication must be distinct from other forms of support, including academic, technical, and administrative. Students must understand these distinctions, and instructors should guide them in navigating the various support channels effectively. Clear communication with learners is easier said than done. Strategies to facilitate effective communication include:

  1.   Clear Contact Information. Instructors must provide easily accessible contact information, indicate their preferred communication method, and establish expected response times, typically within 24 hours.
  2.  Use of Announcements. Utilizing the course announcement section can preemptively address common student queries, reducing the influx of repetitive emails.
  3.  Active Participation in Discussion Forums. Instructors' active engagement in discussion forums encourages students to contribute more thoughtfully and feel more connected to the learning community.
  4.  Identifying Repeat Questions. Instructors can anticipate common areas of confusion by noting repeated questions from students.
  5.  Course Walkthrough. A comprehensive course overview, possibly through video tutorials, helps learners understand what to expect.
  6.  Online Netiquette. Instructors should be cautious with their online tone, as digital communication can often be misinterpreted. Clear and well-thought-out responses can avoid misunderstandings.
  7.  Personalized Approach. Instructors should make an effort to remember details about students, such as nicknames, hobbies, or interests, to create a more personalized learning environment.
  8.  Scannable Instructions. Course content and instructions should be presented in a scannable format, with short paragraphs, meaningful headings, bullet points, and highlighted keywords.
  9.  Instructor Presence. Instructors should establish their presence through personal profiles, videos, and regular interactions, combating the feeling of isolation among learners.
  10.  Timely and Detailed Feedback. Consistent, timely, and constructive feedback on assignments reinforces the connection between instructors and students.

Consistent communication and maintaining an online learning space that is easy to navigate are crucial for student success. Instructors must provide resources, including syllabi, web resources, and course schedules, within the initial weeks of a course to help students adapt.

Ultimately, fostering a personal connection between educators and learners is vital in the online learning landscape. By implementing these ten strategies, instructors can enhance the e-learning experience, ensuring students receive the support and clarity they need to succeed. Frequent, effective communication is the linchpin to realizing these goals.

 

INSPIRATIONAL QUOTES

 

TRANSCRIPT

Hello, and welcome to the eLearning and Instructional Design for Beginners podcast, where new and aspiring instructional designers start, grow, and advance their careers in instructional design and online learning development. I'm your host, Crystal Harper. I'm a former school teacher who transitioned to instructional design, all while working full-time as a single mom. Would you like to become a successful instructional designer without the burden of earning another degree? Well then, let's get started. Clear communication is an essential strategy in e-learning and instructional design because of the fact that text is the most accepted form of communication in online courses.

It is very frustrating when instructors don't ensure directions are clear. It takes time and effort to carefully plan out a course to avoid too much confusion. Effective communication in the online learning environment can improve student outcomes and satisfaction. In this course, you will learn about ten strategies that will help you develop a strong connection with your students via online learning. It is imperative that you take into consideration the suggestions mentioned in this course, keeping up with frequent communication with your students. All of these suggestions will work in supporting the learning process. Why is communication so important?

First, we will discuss why communication in the online learning environment is so important. Of all the challenges in e-learning, lack of personal contact with the instructor is probably on the top of the list. Isolation, lack of support, and learner completion rates are frequent issues in e-learning. The best way to solve this problem lies in better communication amongst learners and instructors. Students need access to their instructor in order to address questions, concerns, and to receive feedback.

Instructor or trainer communication with their students is essential and learner support must clearly be distinguished by the students. This issue will help students feel more connected and engaged in their learning. Students should receive consistent, timely, and detailed feedback. Instructors also need to be available to connect with their students through multiple formats, such as email, Skype, or through the phone. Learners must also be aware of instructor support, academic support, technical support, and administrative support.

It is the instructor's responsibility to decipher between these different forms of communication and explain to the student his or her role in the process. Improving communication is easier said than done. Now we will discuss strategies to help you connect with your learners. Provide clear, understood contact information. When your students are having a problem in the course, you don't want to add to their struggles by making it difficult for them to reach you. Your contact information needs to be displayed front and center.

If you have a contact method that you prefer, highlight that. Also be sure to indicate to your learners an expected wait time before hearing back from you. Let the learners know that you will be in contact within 24 hours. This will help set expectations from the beginning. Number two, use announcements. Communicate with students through the announcement section of the course. This saves the instructor time if they can anticipate questions that students may ask. This will also help eliminate the flood of emails that may come their way if students are confused. Number three, participate in the discussion forums. Instructor involvement can make a huge impact in an online learning environment.

Of course, a healthy discussion forum should be led by the learners and shouldn't rely on the instructors to stay alive. When learners know their ideas are being read by the instructor, it encourages them to try harder and contribute to the discussion more thoughtfully. Number four, look out for repeat questions. One strategy that an instructor can use to anticipate if students are confused is to watch out for emails related to the same topic. If they receive two emails from students with questions about the same areas of concern, it is likely that many other students are just as confused. Number five, provide a course walkthrough. Consider including a course walkthrough at the beginning of the course.

This is a great way to give an outline of what the learner should expect from taking the course. Another effective way to do this is by including a video tutorial that explains how to navigate through the course and the learning management system. Number six, be aware of netiquette. Online netiquette can sometimes be tricky and standards often change. This can cause misunderstandings between learners and instructors, especially when there has been no personal connection established. When communicating with your learners, remember that it is difficult for them to interpret your tone. A humorous comment can sometimes be misinterpreted as a snappy or irritated if they didn't realize the gist of your remark.

Similarly, a quick and formal response can sometimes be read as cold or irritated. It takes a lot of time and practice to phrase the messaging to your learners. By giving all of your responses a careful re-read can help avoid these possible misunderstandings. 7. Make note of specific details about your students. Another technique is to create a spreadsheet with notes on each learner. Suggestions to make note of include nicknames, hometown, favorite hobbies, or sports teams. Your students will appreciate the extra effort and detail when incorporated into a response or feedback. Number eight, provide scannable instructions.

Information can be easily misinterpreted when delivered online. Instructions and course content should be formatted in a way they can be easily scanned and text should be written sufficiently to avoid anything that is not necessary. It is suggested to limit text by 50%, making all paragraphs short and to the point. Information that is crucial and not directly related should be placed on the sideline, but not too ambiguously. Instructions should also include a meaningful title and headlines and subheadings. It is also a good idea to highlight essential keywords, phrases, and links. Directions for assignments should be arranged into bullet points or a numbered list. Rubrics also need to be provided for each of the assignments and examples of exemplary work for students to refer to for assessment.

Use clear fonts and colors to help students recognize important information. Consider setting up course links in a manner that allows students to easily navigate the site. If the course layout is confusing, students have a right to reach out for help, but this also places a burden on the instructor's time. To ensure this doesn't happen, instructors should build their courses with care and with the understanding that a well thought out course design may take longer to develop on the front end, but it will save you time and help you better manage your students on the back end. Students also need to have a place to ask questions when they don't understand something.

At the bottom of each assignment page, the student should be given a place to write any questions or comments on that specific assignment. This can also help eliminate the potential of students asking the same question multiple times, as we discussed earlier, as well as increase social connections among the students. No matter what an instructor does, however, students will still have questions about content or may be confused about how to manage their online learning space. It is the instructor's job to make sure students have any resources they may need. Students tend to have the most issues during the first two weeks of classes, so instructors should give them resources within that time frame to help them get acclimated.

This includes a syllabus or welcome letter that contains course protocols, contact information, web resources, LMS support, and a course schedule. This will help students manage their own time. Number nine, instructor presence. Students need to feel a personal connection with their instructor, especially in an online learning environment. One way to accomplish this is by including a page that tells the students about who you are, your interests, and hobbies. In this page, you should also include either a personal video, audio message, and or photos to help represent who you are as a person.

Another way to support teacher immediacy at the beginning of each module is to provide a personal audio message explaining what the students can expect to learn in that particular module. The messages should be presented in a way that makes the students feel excited to learn the new content and that the instructor is right there with them if they need any additional help. You should also be sure to have a good messaging system that is checked regularly to be able to interact with the students and other faculty members. One of the biggest problems with e-learning is students often feeling isolated, which leads to loss of motivation.

The students in the course should be provided with weekly announcements and reminders to help support this issue as well. Number 10, providing feedback. In addition, you need to provide timely and detailed feedback when grading assignments in an online course. The students will feel connected to their instructor if they frequently receive positive and constructive feedback. Of course, providing feedback can be time consuming, but the learners really need to know that someone is looking at the work they are doing. It can be very discouraging for a student to feel as if their work is only being reviewed by a robot and not a living person.

Also keep a positive attitude. Give direct feedback to all students, addressing them as individuals and by name. Also remember to respond to students' questions or concerns within 24 hours. In addition, instructor presence can be emphasized using personal made videos and audio messages for feedback on assignments. Post grades regularly. This is especially important in an online course to help keep students on the same page with how they're currently doing, which in turn can aid in retaining students in the class. Staying connected with your online learners means always responding to your learners in a timely manner in terms of their questions and concerns.

It also means to show your presence by participating in online discussions and giving students timely feedback on their comments and work. Also be sure to keep the course outline consistent with the received feedback and make changes to the course midstream to incorporate the feedback received from the students through various communication channels. In conclusion, if you wish to develop a strong connection with your students via online learning, then you must take into consideration the suggestions mentioned in this course. The ten strategies you learned about in this course includes, number one, provide clearly understood contact information.

Number two, use announcements. Number three, participate in the discussion forums. Number four, look out for repeat questions. Number five, provide a course walkthrough. Number six, be aware of netiquette. Number seven, make note of specific details about your students. Number eight, provide scannable instructions. Number nine, always include instructor presence. Number 10, provide detailed feedback. If you keep up frequent communication with your students, all of these suggestions will work in the learning process. So now it is time for you to take action. As you create your e-learning course or are evaluating an already created course, keep in mind these 10 strategies on how to communicate with your e-learning students.

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