Are Students Ready for Online Classes?

The number of U.S. college students taking at least one online course was estimated to be 6.7 million, 32% of all higher education enrollees (Allen & Seaman, 2013).  In a Project Tomorrow report (2011) 43% of high-school students identified online classes as an essential component of their ideal school.  Pressure to obtain a college degree has increased the number of students entering college without the requisite level of academic preparation. With a larger number of students wanting or needing online classes, what can we do to continue to offer a quality university education?  Means, Bakia, and Murphy (2014) offer strategies to improve the success rate of under-prepared students.

Set prerequisites for taking online courses:

  • Administer an assessment of “readiness for online learning”
  • Require successful completion of an online orientation prior to course enrollment

Improve the pedagogy of online courses:

  • Ground teaching of a new concept or skill in a concrete context
  • Ask learners to apply key skills in multiple contexts
  • Use spaced, quick assessments of learning
  • Represent concepts in multiple media but avoid overloading the learner’s cognitive capacity
  • Include practice and assessment items that require students to generate answers and provide feedback as quickly as possible
  • Provide feedback that addresses the nature of a student’s misunderstanding and includes tips for remediation
  • Apply the Goldilocks Principle in selecting problem difficulty
  • Build in scaffold for developing self-explanations and self-assessment routines
  • Harness the power of peer-to-peer collaboration
  • Create a sense of instructor presence and responsiveness

Improve the support systems for online students:

  • Counsel students individually to clarify course expectations and set up needed arrangements before the course starts
  • Provide mentors for online learners
  • Institute “early alert” systems based on learner analytics and course progress measures.





Allen, I. E., & Seaman, J. (2013). Changing course: Ten years of tracking online education in the United States. Babson College, MA: The Sloan Consortium. Retrieved from

Means, B., Bakia, M., & Murphy, R. (2014). What research tells us about whether, when and how. New York, NY: Routledge.

Project Tomorrow. (2011). The new 3 E’s of education: Enabled, engaged and empowered: how today’s students are leveraging emerging technologies for learning. Congressional Briefing – Release of Speak Up 2010 National Data for Students and Parents.  Retrieved from


The Practice of Good Teaching and Learning

“And in our rush to move courses online, we’re all too often putting innovation ahead of pedagogy.” (Ben-Naim, 2017).

smartWhat makes a course “smarter” in today’s terms? Ben-Naim (2017) believes that smart courses are not the ones jammed packed with impressive technology, they are the courses that use technology to enhance the practices of good teaching and learning.  Having information is not the only criterion for learning, therefore, just offering learners pages and pages of slides or reading materials doesn’t accomplish the goal.  Learning begins to take shape when a learner uses the information provided to do things.  You want to offer your learners the right tools (materials) to embark on a learning journey but you also want them to know what to do with the tools.  Most learners don’t get the opportunity to practice and develop skills if they only read a textbook or listen to a lecture.

Mastering a skill is different than having knowledge, and if your students do not need to be proficient at what you are teaching then you are only seeking to impart knowledge but if you expect them to develop a skill, they will need practice.  Include opportunities for practice in your course and offer ways for students to interact with your material in a meaningful way.

Asking questions is a great way to get students involved with course material. You can pose questions through a discussion forum, use a polling tool or create an interactive asynchronous collaborative activity using something like VoiceThread. Think-pair-share is another way to get students to interact. Ask students to think about a question or topic and then pair them with another classmate to discuss their ideas and eventually share their thoughts with the whole class to compare answers/views.  Case studies and problem-solving activities are other options for providing engagement and opportunities for practice.

What Makes a Smart Course ‘Smart’? by Dror Ben-Naim

Happy New Year!  It has been an icy start to 2017 but Welcome back

studentsThe beginning of the semester is always exciting for me.  It is a fresh start, a new group of eager students and a new day to try things a new way.  The first introduction to you and your course can really shape your class environment and student attitudes; “it sets the tone for what is to follow and can greatly influence students’ opinions about the course and the instructor for the remainder of the semester” (Periman & McCann, 1999, p. 277).

As you prepare for the semester think about defining your goals for student learning rather than defining content. What knowledge and skills do you want your students to learn? Focusing on student goals will help you determine the appropriate content, teaching methods, assignments, and assessments.  Remember some students are motivated by desire, to learn but others need extrinsic motivation; if you feel a particular assignment will be extremely beneficial then make sure it is factored into the final grade.  Many students will skip assignments that are only strongly recommended.

Add a personal touch to your course, create a welcome video to give students an overview of your expectations and give them guidance on how you run your course. If you are teaching online this would be a great way to explain the functionality and navigation of the course.  A welcome video should not be limited to only online courses, it would be beneficial for blended and traditional f2f classes as well.  The millennial student is very comfortable with video content.  A welcome video would be a great introduction to your course and to you and can be created easily with Kaltura.

For more information on adding video to your course or techniques for getting started, contact someone at learning systems