Getting your online course up and running is one thing. But have you thought about how you will support your students as they progress through it?
Learning through online courses is quite different from traditional education settings. There is more flexibility and autonomy for students, but there can also be more distractions and less motivation! And, if online learners are not getting the engagement or encouragement that they need, they may not have the best learning experience.
Online courses are most often targeted at adult learners, who generally have different expectations regarding communication and support from their instructors. They are more likely to view you as an equal or a peer, and will want to receive more in depth and meaningful engagement from you.
So, how can you make it happen?
There are lots of innovative ways to help online students get the best results possible from your course. So, let’s take a look!
Type Of Course
The level of support will depend on the type of course you are offering. Courses that are designed to be standalone, more passive and easy to digest, are relatively inexpensive (typically less than $30). These wouldn’t usually include any support package.
However, for more comprehensive or complex courses, more proactive support is usually offered. This helps to ensure your learners actually complete the course and enjoy the experience more – and hopefully recommend it to others!
Without this support, you may notice that students don’t progress to the end of your course as they get stuck and don’t know what to do. However, you might also find that your learners are achieving good results and your course has a good completion rate, in which case the additional support may not be required.
It is likely to vary between courses and subjects, so it is a good idea to monitor course completion to help inform any support requirements.
Social Media And Other Channels
One of the more popular ways to offer support for online courses has traditionally been through private Facebook groups. Students taking the same courses at the same time can be added to these groups to create an online learning community. This is a good option as they can make connections with and learn from each other.
However, recent research has found that while social media use in general is still increasing, Facebook’s popularity, in particular, has been steadily declining over the last few years. This is among both young adult and middle-aged demographics. That decline indicates that we may need to reconsider our online support channels.
It can be difficult to move people away from social media entirely, as it is where people are used to actively spending their time online. Some easily accessible online alternatives could be Slack or Discord channels, or LinkedIn groups.
Thinkific's Communities is a great place to connect with a group of people who have similar learning goals that meet to discuss course topics and assignments. So if your course is already on the Thinkific platform, it's easy for your students to use the Communities feature to connect with other students, and also to engage with their instructor/tutor.
The positive news is that hosting a learning community outside of Facebook may also limit distractions during study/work time!
It is super easy to get distracted and lose momentum when working through an online course. So, it may be helpful for some learners to have some quick accountability check-ins on offer. This can help to keep them on track with their progress.
These check-ins could be a simple automated email to remind them of where they should be up to in the course material. Or, you can connect in a more authentic way via a 10 minute live call to see how they are going and answer any questions that have come up. This can be done as a group call or on an individual level - depending on the format of your course.
Whichever you choose, it will be helpful for your students if you could set a work schedule to help them work through the course incrementally and check in at agreed intervals.
Offer Reviews Of Their Work
Some courses with more complex material can require additional support and feedback. This is because the content is more in depth and may raise some queries. To ensure your students are grasping the material, you can offer to review your student's work or modules prior to final submission.
This will help you to ensure the material is being delivered in a way that your students can comprehend and learn from. Obviously, at the same time, it offers a way to connect with your students on a deeper level.
Paid Tutoring Sessions
Some students will be more invested in your content than others. For the ones that are really intent on learning, you can offer a premium level of support.
Outside of the standard group calls and forums, or whatever basic support is included as part of your course, you could also offer one-on-one sessions. These can be at set intervals throughout the course, or as a one-off purchase for the students that find they need extra help or want to take their learning further.
To incentivise learners to take up this option, you could offer the first session for free or at a discounted rate.
Invite Feedback About Your Support Channels
Support is most effective when it is designed according to the needs of your learners. In order to provide the very best support, it can be helpful to invite feedback and pay close attention to any reviews. That way, you can identify any areas where your support offerings could be improved.
Not sure what support to offer with your course or how to make it happen? Then, get in touch with me (Debbie) at Task Diva today. I specialise in helping small businesses create high quality learning experiences via online courses.
Book a FREE 20 minute call to chat now.
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Debbie Mills Robertson
Thinkific Specialist for Online Courses
027 345 7000