The Shift to eLearning: Developing Engaging Online Curriculum
Updated: Jul 18, 2020
By Allyson Kahlen
Are you an employer who is putting off vital training for your employees because you aren’t sure how to move forward without a physical classroom and instructor? Or maybe you are a K-12 school, struggling to keep your students engaged and distraction-free while practicing distance learning. I’ve worked in online higher education for 10 years, completed my Master’s degree online, and have been a fully remote employee for a year. I have experienced, first hand, the struggles that come along with going virtual. It requires changes to your practice and mindset, but it is completely doable! Let’s talk about how you can tailor your curriculum, whether it’s K-12, higher education, or employee training, to the online environment without sacrificing your participant engagement.
The Benefits of Online Learning
First, let’s highlight the benefits of online learning:
Flexibility is, arguably, the biggest benefit of online learning. Students can choose when they want to focus on various subjects, when to take breaks, and when to reach out to their teacher or parent for help. With flexibility, your learners can cater their own learning experience, fostering success regardless of their learning style and independent needs.
Increased Time Management Skills
In order to make a flexible schedule work, you must have good time management skills! While this may begin as a challenge for some learners, the requirement to manage their own schedule will teach them how to do it successfully.
Synchronous and Asynchronous Learning
Most in-classroom learning takes place synchronously, meaning all learning happens together at the same time. Asynchronous learning occurs independent of other learners. Online learning allows for both synchronous and asynchronous learning. You may choose to hold a few video calls with your students throughout the week, and allow them independent study time for the rest of the week.
Improved Technology Skills
Being a tech-savvy individual is no longer an option: it is a requirement for success. Requiring your students to learn new tech skills certainly comes with a learning curve, but those skills will be beneficial not just for their immediate success as an independent learner, but tech abilities will also help them throughout their future educational and professional careers.
Developing Engaging Online Curriculum
Shifting your curriculum from a formal classroom to a virtual learning space can seem daunting but, with the right tools and a bit of confidence, it is not only manageable but can actually be a lot of fun for your learners. Below are a few useful tips and ideas for creating engaging online learning.
A big criticism of online learning is the myth there is little or no face-to-face interactions. “Face-to-face” is different from “in person!” We have so many tools at our fingertips, including Zoom, Webex, Microsoft Teams, and Google Hangout to get that face time in with our students. Just be sure to limit your virtual meetings to avoid Zoom fatigue for both you and your learners.
Many learning management systems (LMS) have a built-in discussion board function, allowing an instructor to pose a discussion topic. Participants can post their written discussions to the discussion board and respond to classmates’ posts. This encourages students to practice their written communication skills. Many LMSs also have built-in video functions that allow faculty and students to respond to discussions in video format.
Interactivities are a great way to create engaging and visually appealing curriculum, but many people new to online education might be intimidated by the thought of creating a robust interactive. There are lots of tools that you can use to create interactive activities that engage your learners. Articulate Storyline and Rise are great options, but they can be expensive and have a learning curve. H5P is a free, web-based platform that is great for beginners. I encourage you to look into H5P and other free tools to help elevate your curriculum.
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