Virtual Learning Success: Guidance For Instructors
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Virtual Learning: How To Select, Deliver, And Evaluate The Right Tools

It was announced in May that the largest four-year college system in the U.S., California State University (CSU), will continue to be held online through the fall due to the spread of the coronavirus. This news marks a definite shift to a world where, more and more, learning of all kinds will now take place virtually. Even at institutions that remain hopeful about the possibility of a return to on-campus learning sooner than later, the role of virtual and eLearning tools and platforms will undoubtedly play a bigger role than ever before. In light of this, we are sharing some guidance for instructors themselves on how to pivot successfully to virtual learning, and what to look for when selecting new eLearning tools and platforms.

Incorporate Personalization Wherever Possible

While a sudden shift to online may feel jarring for learners and instructors alike, the reality is that technology-driven learning tools, platforms, and formats come packed with benefits. Among them is the opportunity to personalize the learning experience, which has become one of the most popular and effective techniques for improving learner engagement. And while personalized learning can take many forms, virtual learning lends itself extremely well to incorporating personalized learning touches.

For example, personalized welcome tutorials are one great tool to help learners engage with an eLearning platform. Guided tutorials that use learners’ names can be delivered through chatbots and pop-ups, introductory emails with slides, or a program navigation video. These kinds of personalized introductions help users take ownership of the learning platform or tool from the very beginning and should include a course content overview. Be sure to include a course content overview. This way, individual learners can pick and choose the right content format for their specific learning preferences (i.e., scripts of video-recording content for learners who prefer reading over auditory or visual learning).

There may also be an opportunity to personalize the learning experience through an onboarding questionnaire or survey. Pre-program surveys designed to gain information on a learner’s goals and expectations for the course, their existing knowledge base, and experience level, and time or schedule constraints can arm you with the knowledge needed to create a more tailor-made feel throughout the learning process.

Minimize Technological Barriers

Selecting and introducing new technology to a learning environment, especially under the circumstances of a sudden shift to virtual or distance learning, is always a challenge. In fact, the success or failure of online learning is usually determined early on in this purchase decision stage—so finding the right tool, with as few technological barriers as possible, is key. Be on the lookout for providers who offer both learner and instructor support packages, so that end-to-end access is made as seamless as possible.

More elements to look for to ensure that technological barriers are minimal include the following:

  • Demos, guides, and support
    Guided, “how-to-use” screen recordings are becoming the standard over the traditional user manual and can save both teachers and students a lot of time when questions arise.
  • Alternative access to course materials
    Whether using a Learning Management System (LMS) or another online delivery tool, there should always be alternatives provided to access the information. For instance, programs delivered online using videos should have transcripts available for easy referencing, and those delivered via emails should have summary slides attached to them.
  • Sequencing and bite-sized delivery
    Since virtual learning, by definition, allows learners to work at their own pace, be sure to look for tools and platforms that automatically sequence learning content. This way, learners have the ability to move through materials without skipping lessons, compliance tests or assignments, or any other pertinent information.

Incorporate Continuous Feedback And Evaluation

As is the case with all learning formats, in virtual learning, communication is king. Establishing regular feedback loops that monitor and assess student satisfaction and engagement will help you leverage recent successes and course-correct where there are shortcomings. Learners are also more likely to thrive when they feel heard and understood, so create as many chances as possible for them to provide feedback, make suggestions, or ask questions about the virtual learning process. For example, many online learning tools include an online discussion/FAQ board where students can engage with instructors and their peers to resolve issues or better learn how to use the platform.

Consistent evaluation—both formative and summative—of your virtual learning experience is key to its success, especially when the platform or tool being used is new to learners and instructors.

Evaluating Virtual Learning

Components to consider:

  • UX/UI Design
    A UI, or User Interface, is what allows users (or learners) to communicate or interact with a product, such as a computer, software application, website, or, in this case, an eLearning course. So, the UX is how users feel about their experience with the product, which is determined in part by the UI.
  • Learning Materials
    Whether they are assigned reading, group projects, teaching videos, quizzes, writing assignments—or anything else!—be sure to regularly review how your learning materials are performing.
  • Technology
    Encourage open and honest feedback about the technical elements of the virtual learning experience so that recurring issues can be resolved and improvements can be made in real time.
  • Instructional Design
    Instructional Design is the process by which learning products and experiences are designed, developed, and delivered. Overall, did the structure and delivery of the course meet learners’ expectations? Was it effective?

Conclusion

Selecting, implementing, and evaluating the latest virtual learning tools has now become a core responsibility for many teachers and trainers, and many are still struggling with the learner curve. The tips shared above are designed to help instructors derive value from the eLearning tools and platforms by understanding how to identify the right solutions for their needs and deliver them in a manner to ensure learner success.

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