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5 Key Success Factors for Online Learning

Sabine Westerdijk / 10 February 2016

5 Key Success Factors for Online Learning

To learn online or not to learn online… that is the question. If you think about training programs or academic courses, do you think about sitting in a classroom or lecture hall with fellow students, listening to an instructor?

Online Learning – Pros and Cons

Of course, traditional classroom style training or lectures still occur, but nowadays you can also follow many training programs or courses at home, online. Online learning is getting more and more popular, and for good reasons. Especially for people leading busy lives, online learning seems ideal. The studying hours are flexible and you save time because you don’t have to travel. In most cases, you also save money. Sounds good, right?

However, there are also some downsides to online learning. Students have more freedom, but this also means they need better self-regulated learning skills. They need to be good at planning, monitoring, and evaluating their personal progress. Scheduling time to study and to work on assignments and quizzes can be challenging. Also, because there is less contact with peers or instructors (sometimes almost no contact at all), students could feel isolated and this can negatively influence their study results. Maybe these negative aspects aren’t that hindering when you’re following a short training program that can be completed in just a couple of days, but when it comes to longer programs or courses, these are important aspects to keep in mind.

icon-people_poster-messageIn the paper I’m sharing with you (see download link, below), I have explored various aspects of online learning and have answers questions like:

  • What is needed to provide a successful online educational experience?
  • How important is the social aspect?
  • What is the role of the instructor?

To answer these questions, I’ve conducted a literature review. What has been written about online learning so far and what can be added to this existing pile of knowledge?

Community of Inquiry

One of the things I often came across is the Community of Inquiry, a popular theoretical framework that is also applied to online learning contexts. It is based on the idea that three aspects are necessary for a satisfactory educational experience:

  1. Cognitive presence
  2. Social presence
  3. Teaching presence.

Basically, this means that students should be cognitively engaged with the learning material and with their learning process, and that there should be a sense of community. Students should get the opportunity to exchange ideas and to participate in discussions. The instructor also plays an important role here. He or she should motivate the students and be enthusiastic.

However, I think there are two more aspects that are very important when it comes to online education. First of all, there should be more attention paid to self-regulated learning skills and how to improve these skills. Secondly, the people and organizations offering online courses should keep the usability of the online learning environment in mind. The environment should be user-friendly and all the important things, such as the syllabus, assignments, and the discussion board, should be easy to find.

Five key success factors for online studying

All in all, there seem to be five key success factors in regards to online studying. There are the cognitive and social factors, the role of the instructor, self-regulated learning skills, and the platform’s ease of use. These factors will be discussed in more detail in my paper, so please take a look if you want to learn more about what’s important in online education.

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