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Online Language Learner Orientation & Success

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Good online teaching is learner centered. This module guides provides you a profile of online language learners and how best to orient and support them toward success.

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Additional Resources for you to Explore
The more we know about online learners in general (from surveys, reports, research, eg. Flanagan 2016, Kerr et al.  2006, Shen et al. 2013) and individually (from canvassing students in our courses), the better their chances at learning success. There are very general lists like this one in USNews from 2011, or these 7 tips from UIllinois Online in 2015, or 5 tips from this blog from 2012, that are very general and speak as well to good learning  habits regardless of the media of delivery.

This recent article breaks learner success into five (5) component parts: organization/layout; communication of expectations; student preparation; chunking & scaffolding information; humanizing or socially engaging learners. Under student preparation Kumar & Scrocki (2017) note several that we covered in our video, along with a few more, namely:

- Technical skill
- Understanding of online/hybrid learning environments - Study skills
- Workload management
- Communication
- Resources, including technical help and other campus resources
- Welcoming and personal introductory video of the instructor in a nonacademic role
- A library of resources on issues affecting online instruction, such as time management, computer accessibility, willingness to reach out with questions, etc.

Setting up the first or landing webpage for your course is an essential component of the design and navigation of any online course. That webpage or LMS start page needs to be visually and informationally engaging and explicit.  Since our field targets the learning of a language other than the learner’s native language, we must choose whether to offer this page in the learner’s native language or typical language of instruction (often English). Although many of us prefer all or most instruction to be in the target language, in the online modality, this may not be the best strategy, especially for learners at the novice levels of acquisition. At upper levels of instruction, the use of target language may be completely appropriate. If your online course is meant for upper level or worldwide learners, you’ll have to design a more visually informative and highly intuitive launch page. It is a good idea to view several ways of offering orientations, like the ones Victoria showed in her module, and here and here.

Students today tend to seek and use information that is audiovisual. Reading is often not a strong suit. The more our online course site offers learners video tutorials and materials, the more likely they will access and view them. Still, reading, especially if it is short bursts (bullets, for example) and graphically organized and presented (outlines, infographics) is well received. Check out Pinterest, infographic sites, Adobe’s Spark, and places like SlideShare to get ideas, perhaps even find usable materials. And never forget YouTube!

Just as we work toward differentiation in our F2F courses, we must also design and deliver online courses in multiple ways targeting multiple learning styles and preferences. The online venue fortunately offers us a space in which to offer learners a host of approaches, techniques, input, opportunities, more than any F2F class with its limited time frames. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so do see your online courses as a process where it comes to learning about and adapting to your online learners. And, although an online course should be a highly organized entity prior to student onboarding, we can still react in a timely fashion to learner variation in real time as we interact with learners as individuals. At the end of each course, we should always review our landing page(s) and orientation materials to make them better. A good idea is to survey each class regarding the efficacy of these modules and approaches.

And, work that social presence into your course from the very first launch page. Humanize it with your ‘touch’  finding some way to engage learners with you, each other, native speakers, someBODY.

Good luck to you and your students!

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