3 ways to bring online learning back to life

By Dan Merritts
June 25th, 2015

Combating “the [online] learning dead” through self-management and personal responsibility.

online-learning-tiredIs educating students online looking more and more like a scene from “The Walking Dead?” More specifically, is online learning becoming a lifeless learning model, devoid of human interaction and social connection? It seems that way.

Today’s online students, a large population of more than 7 million strong, may be on the verge of becoming educational “zombies.” After all, many courses see students perfunctorily toggle between eBooks, lifeless discussion boards and recorded lectures without ever actually interacting with a human.

It’s time to help online learners come alive and reengage educationally. We need to “humanize” online learning again by building programs that support the core competencies of social and emotional human development: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making.

But the question is, how?

The truth is it’s not that hard. By incorporating more social and emotional elements into existing online learning technologies, tools and strategies, educators can humanize eLearning and bring disengaged students back from “The Learning Dead.” Here are three ways to get started:

Get students talking

Humanizing online learning starts with “socializing” curriculum. According to a recent study, students who don’t have access to active forms of social learning, like peer-to-peer discussions and group work, are 1.5 times more likely to fail.

Online educators must incorporate social components, like live face-to-face video, texting, online polling, breakout study rooms that support group work and second screen device use to foster peer-to-peer learning networks. Access to these types of learning communities, which tend to happen more naturally in a traditional learning environment, satisfies students’ need for social collaboration, exposure to new ideas and peer support. Biobehaviorists agree that these communities are key to creating successful learning environments.

Not only do social components trigger more peer-to-peer interaction, but they also drive tremendous student engagement and enrollment. In fact, our client Yale University has seen a 300 percent growth in its online learning program in just three years.

(Next page: Yale’s success, self-management, and responsibility)

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