Instructional Methods for Online Learners

Instructional Methods for Online Learners

Judith Parker (Columbia University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-791-3.ch009
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While a plethora of instructional methods are documented and utilized in educational and training programs, some are more appropriate for the online learner than others. This chapter will examine these selected methods: lecturing, discussion, action-learning, experiential learning, and active learning. Each of these will be discussed in its own right and then considered in the context of online learning. Examples of these methods and student comments are included as well as a view into future possibilities.
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Essentials Of Effective Instructional Methods

Effective implementation of instructional methods for online learners depends on four elements: good instructional design by the instructor, web/computer expertise of the learner, information technology infrastructure of the organization and adult learning principles. Good instructional design demands that the selection of instructional methods be based on a foundation of organizational, group, and individual needs. Substantial effort must be dedicated to uncovering these needs before any decisions about the design of training are made. Students in the Staff Development and Training course that the author teaches are required to submit a profile of the organization, perform a needs assessment and report on the conclusion as a preparation for documenting their decisions about the training design and methods. They are usually surprised at the amount of work that goes into these initial phases of the assignment and often argue about being necessity. They become impatient, wanting to get to the content of the training. However, their end of project reflections reveal that they realized the importance of the work when it came to decision making about the content and methodology and were often surprised at the new insights uncovered by their work.

If the design is to include online activities, an additional layer of knowledge about the organization, group and individuals are required. Can the organization’s information technology infrastructure support any new software requirements and increased activity load on its servers? Are the informational technology personnel available to support software/hardware and the learners? Will the organizational culture support the online activities? Are students computer savvy enough to utilize the online components? Technology must be transparent; technology cannot mask learning. If the organization has multiple sites, do all sites have high speed access and if international locations, do all countries have the infrastructure necessary to support online activities? Later in this chapter, we will explore an example of a leadership development project involving eight Asian countries in which this was a key consideration.

A clue to the importance of connectivity can be seen in the abundance of advertising about 3G, 4G and fiber optic networks and shaded maps for emphasis. If an organization’s key manufacturing location falls between the shaded areas of the map, any learning plan involving online components could be in trouble.

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