In distance learning, there are changes in interactions between the teacher and the participants. On the other hand, there is more flexibility in the learning process. Distance learning allows for more flexible scheduling and a new way of targeting the time used for instruction. In this article, we will review the things that should be specifically considered when switching to distance learning.
Uniform and up-to-date distribution of information
In distance education, it is important to ensure that the instructions are clear and motivating. When everyone is familiar with the practices, operation, and scheduling of the education, everyone can focus on learning. Instructions could also include reasons why things are done in the teaching in a certain way and motivate work by elaborating in more detail on what participants will learn during the education and how it will benefit them.
Things to consider in instructions
- the instructions include information about what is going to be done, how and on what schedule
- descriptions of the assignments must be clear
- you should explain how performance will be evaluated
- information about who to contact in a problem situation and how
motivation: what are we going to learn, what are the benefits of the education
Instructions should also include common rules for communication, such as recommended contact channels and instructions on how soon the participant should expect a response to their contact.
Monitoring enables properly timed and targeted support
The progress of learning should be monitored and measured in order to discover what kinds of support participants need. If it turns out that some participant has trouble getting started or problems in a certain subject area, monitoring makes it possible to offer help faster and for the right things.
Learning platforms automatically collect learning analytics, i.e. information about the participants’ progress. At the same time, responses to assignments will be gathered in one place and some assignments can also be marked automatically. This makes the monitoring of assignments easier and also frees up time for developing content and supporting participants.
Learning analytics helps answer the following questions
- Which parts have been completed?
- What were the results of the assignments?
- Are there recurring errors in the assignments? What are they?
- Are there parts in the materials that are particularly interesting / uninteresting?
- Has one of the participants fallen behind or is one of them well ahead of the others?
Learning on the web is different from studying in a classroom, and some participants may surprise you by performing on a different level in distance learning than in regular classroom education.
Receiving feedback motivates and helps the development
Learning in distance education is often more independent than in classroom education. At the same time, distance learning sets new requirements for counseling and feedback. It is also important to ensure that the instructions and evaluation criteria are clear to everyone so that feedback is considered fair.
Not all feedback needs to come specifically from the teacher; some of the feedback may also come automatically from a system or from other course participants. Feedback also helps better understand one’s own development and steers towards practicing the right things.
Things to consider when giving feedback
- good feedback is encouraging and steers toward development
- successes and progress should be rewarded
- it is important to focus the feedback only on things the participant can influence
- in written feedback, it is important to pay attention to the tone of the text in order to avoid misunderstandings
- peer feedback from other participants is also interesting and motivating
The teacher should also ask distance learning participants for feedback in order to find out how teaching can be developed and where it has succeeded.
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