Support Learning in Online Courses with Structure (Part 1 of 2)

Online learning has become an integral part of the education landscape, offering flexibility and accessibility to students worldwide. However, the success of online courses heavily relies on the structure provided to learners. In this article, I’ll explore five key strategies to support learning in online courses through effective structuring. Educators, administrators, and instructional designers can use these strategies to create a cohesive and engaging learning experience for their students.

Consistent Course Design: Consistency is key when designing online courses. Establishing a standardized course structure helps students navigate the course materials easily and reduces confusion. Maintain a consistent layout for each module or lesson, including headings, subheadings, and formatting. Consistency also extends to the use of language, instructions, and assessment criteria. When students can anticipate and understand the structure, they can focus more on the content and learning objectives.

Intentional Orientation: Begin the course with a comprehensive orientation module or section to familiarize students with the online learning environment. This orientation should cover technical aspects, such as how to navigate the course platform, submit assignments, and participate in discussions. Additionally, provide an overview of the course structure, expectations, and resources available to students. A well-designed orientation sets the foundation for a successful learning experience by ensuring that students feel prepared and confident from the start.

Online Learning Best Practices: Online learning requires specific skills and strategies for success. Dedicate a module or lesson to share best practices with students. Teach them effective time management, organization, and study techniques tailored to the online environment. Provide guidance on active learning strategies, such as note-taking, summarizing, and self-assessment. Encourage students to create a conducive learning environment and establish a routine that supports their online learning journey.

Low-Stakes Assessments to Learn Navigation: Navigating an online course can sometimes be overwhelming for students, especially if they are new to the platform. Incorporate low-stakes assessments, such as quizzes or interactive activities, that focus on familiarizing students with the course structure and navigation. These assessments should not heavily impact grades but serve as learning opportunities. By engaging with the course elements early on, students become more comfortable and proficient in navigating the online environment.

Weekly To-Do Lists: Provide students with clear and concise weekly to-do lists that outline the tasks, readings, assignments, and deadlines for each week. Break down large assignments into manageable milestones, allowing students to track their progress and plan their time effectively. These lists create a sense of structure, provide a roadmap for learning, and help students stay organized and on track throughout the course.

In the realm of online education, creating a well-structured learning experience is paramount. By implementing consistent course design, offering intentional orientation, sharing online learning best practices, incorporating low-stakes assessments for navigation, and providing weekly to-do lists, educators, administrators, and instructional designers can effectively support learning in online courses. These strategies empower students to navigate the course with ease, stay organized, and engage meaningfully with the content. With a strong foundation of structure, online courses can become dynamic and engaging learning environments that foster student success.