Instructional Design for Beginners

2.1 Describing the characteristics of Online Learners

As Instructional designers you will need to understand the characteristics of online students to be able to plan instruction that helps them to become confident, think critically, evaluate and reflect upon their progress, and judge the usefulness and application of their new knowledge and skills.

If you are planning for a post-secondary level, your students are adults who have specific educational goals (attaining a certificate or degree). They are in school not because they HAVE to be but because they WANT to be.

2.1.1 Make Connections
Take a moment to reflect on your online learners –
  • Who are they?
  • What kind of experiences do they come with?
  • What are their learning styles and preferences?
  • How are you meeting their learning needs?
  • How is technology playing a part in their lives?
  • What are the characteristics of your learners?
  • Do you think this will be the same or different in a face-to-face class? Why?
Online students have a similar purpose to those in a face-to-face class. They are part of a program and need your course, but the only difference is that they have time or distance constraints. Keep in mind that some of these students are working full time; others may have family responsibilities or may even live outside the city, province or country. With all these conflicting priorities they may have to keep up with independent course work. So, when designing your course you need to think of ways in which to communicate effectively with your students, help them meets their goals and with a little bit of encouragement you can help them make their learning experience fun and relevant.  

You need to keep in mind that today's students have grown up digitally. They spend all their time on digital technologies and are excited, motivated by it. Sometimes it is hard to imagine life without it. However, just because they have grown up with it does not necessarily mean that they know how to learn with it. 

Don Tapscott (2009) a businessman and author of "Grown-up Digital" states that today's Net Generation are active participants and not passive learners in their environment. They have grown up in a digital world and live in the nearly now. To understand them means to understand the future. How much do we know of these learners? 

2.1.1 Required Readings

Listen to Don Tapscotts "Growing up Digital -- How the Net Generation is changing the world"
After reviewing this video, look at "How Net Gen Students Work" would you say then that the characteristics of online learners are --
  1. Highly self-motivated
  2. Bring with them experience
  3. Exhibit self-directed learning skills
  4. Understand and value interaction and collaborative learning
  5. Strong need for social interaction

2.1.1 Learning Activity

I wrote a blog post on "Net Gen Learners - An opposing View"
Also read the "Net Gen Skeptic" by Mark Bullen
1. What are your thoughts about this view?
2. Do you agree or disagree? Why? 
Write your comments in the blog post titled "2.1.1 Learning Activity- Net Gen Learners". As you reflect on these questions and read the other material for this module you will be well prepared to participate in the Blog discussion. Please make sure you carefully read any other comments that have been posted by your classmates, and post your own comments to the blog.

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