Yesterday we asked about help and support for online learning. Who supports you when you are learning online? Is it mainly the tutors and other learners who are sharing the online environment, or is it people around you in the real world (at home or at work perhaps) offering more general support for what you have taken on? Perhaps it is even friends and colleagues in different online spaces such as facebook?
— Clare Thomson (@ClareThomsonQUB) July 8, 2016
— David Hopkins (@hopkinsdavid) July 8, 2016
— Jen J (@Catspergers) July 8, 2016
— Sheila MacNeill (@sheilmcn) July 8, 2016
Forum contributors noted:
Where I have problems – online tutorials can be useful (when the technology doesn’t let you down) but I still find I can get far more across and engage more in a face to face tutorial.
Supportive tutors are also key to keeping me engaged and focused. Regular catch ups with tutors, or emails to check on progress really help me to keep my motivation.
Another connected the kind of support required with the kind of learning being undertaken:
what helps me in learning online is the ability to set my own projects and goals, to have access to a wide range of resources and a group of peers to support me. What doesn’t help me is a course structure or timed-delimited focus,
The question of monitoring came up once, reminding us that learning analytics are being used in some online courses to identify which students might be in need of support and guidance at different times. A few contributors over the week have also mentioned the value of regular prompts and timely feedback – whether these come from real other people or are built into course activities.
So while Kiu Sum reminded us yesterday that guidance, help and support are important to many learners, some learners – especially with a lot of learning experience, or with a strong preference for independence – do well without it. This might explain why many – but not all – studies in our literature review found that the quality of guidance was a significant factor in learners’ success, while a lack of ‘anyone to help’ was often aspected in a negative way. Some types of online learning will attract learners who are happy and confident learning with minimal support, and providing this is clearly signposted in any course materials, this can still be a positive experience for those types of learner. But learners who are less confident or self-sufficient will need more structure to their course and more guidance, encouragement, help, and regular prompts to support their learning. Learners without existing online networks or the habit of turning to them for support will need access to supportive other people through the online course itself, and may need those encounters to be carefully structured for them, at least at the start.