Learning before the Learning?

Similar to a marathon, a participating runner wouldn’t embark on a 26 mile journey without some sort of preparation (well, hopefully not). The same follows for students, or in this case, an “online learner”. Pre-learning activities help prepare students for the details of the lesson, getting them connected and motivated.

So why is student preparation necessary?

An example, according to the results of “Preparing for Distance Learning: Designing An Online Student Orientation Course“, a common theme among instructor responses was the misperception among students regarding the demand, time management, level of interaction, and frequency of contact required in online courses.

The misperception resulted in many discrepancies between students and faculty.

What pre-learning activities should there be?

(Tips from “Preparing Students for Elearning“)

  • A rationale should be provided to inform learners of the importance of the online lesson, and how it will benefit them.
  • A concept map helps establish the existing cognitive structure, to incorporate the details of the online lesson, and to activate learners’ existing structures to help them learn the details in the lesson.
    • It also gives learners the “big picture.”
  • Learners should be informed of the learning outcomes of the lesson, so that they know what is expected of them and will be able to gauge when they have achieved the lesson outcomes.
  • An advance organizer should be provided to establish a structure to organize the details in the online lesson or to bridge what learners already know and what they need to know.
  • Prerequisite requirements so that they can check whether they are ready for the lesson. Providing the prerequisites to learners also activates the required cognitive structure to help them learn the materials.
  • Self-assessments should be provided at the start of the lesson to allow learners to check whether they already have the knowledge and skills taught in the online lesson.
    • The self-assessment also helps students to organize the lesson materials and to recognize the important materials in the lesson.
  • Including a  learning journal, to help allow learners to reflect on what they learn and provide personal meaning to the information.
  • Pre-practice activities, with feedback, should be included to allow students to monitor how they are performing, so that they can adjust their learning method if necessary.
    • Providing a summary, or students being required to generate a lesson summary, helps promote higher-level processing.

Also it is worthy to let students know about:

  • The amount of time to be devoted.
  • Degree of interaction required, and tools used.
  • Additional support documents that may benefit online learners.
    • Instructor expectations of learners.
    • Course outline, course schedule.
    • Listing of assignments, detailing which are to be submitted, and which are strictly for learning concepts.
    • Grading rubric/philosophy.

In conclusion, there is a clear need for adequate student preparation prior to embarking an online course. Pre-learning activities should strive to address and educate students, providing clear communication.  Do you incorporate any of these pre-learning activities? If so, which ones? Do you have any additional pre-learning activities and tips?