Virtual Teaching and Learning

#oltak Creating successful environments for students


How can we support students in being successful in our online course? Why?

This weeks readings discussed the characteristics of adults enrolled in distance education courses. When I was working towards my bachelors degree I took several classes that dealt with andragogy. Most of the focus was on understanding where adult learners were coming from…their history and experience that they brought to the classroom and how that affected their learning ability and styles. I was surprised to read that online learners of all ages were beginning to exhibit the same type of behavior and needs.
Most of the information I gleaned from my classes on teaching adult learners I have been able to take back into my classroom, utilize and see marked differences in my relationship with them, their understanding of course materials or theories and principles, and have actually had a lot more fun teaching. Don’t get me wrong, teaching has always been fun but understanding the how and why behind my students learning skills has taken a lot of stress out of the equation.
I guess the most important thing for me to understand was the history that learners bring to the classroom. With adults, many have already held careers, have families, and possess a fairly firm grasp of understanding of who they are, what their place is in the world within said career, family and community dynamic. They have a belief about themselves. So, when they enter into secondary education it presents a whole new set of rules that upsets this bubble of certainty….they have to develop a new skill set for studying, have to learn something new that they, at first are potentially not good at, and they have to figure out how they fit into this new role. It can be extremely frustrating for them and prove to be a barrier for some if the frustration isn’t addressed. Paying close attention to students behavior, language and performance is a great indicator as to what’s going on in their heads. I have found that addressing anything I see that could be potentially a warning sign (poor test score, inability to finish a project, etc.) opens communication and I am able to hear what the student is feeling (I like to think I can read minds, but I cannot) and engage with them on a one-on-one basis in such a way that nine times out of ten, leads to their success and a deeper relationship between us.
Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences offers an understanding of how students demonstrate their intellectual capacity. This theory is worth looking at when designing instruction. Keeping in mind that it may be possible to meet the specific learning needs of students who may be dominant in one or several intelligences (teAchnology, 2014).
Type of Intelligence Definition
Linguistic Intelligence “Word smart”
Logical-mathematical intelligence “Number/Reasoning whiz”
Spatial intelligence “Picture/Blueprint smart”
Body-Kinesthetic Intelligence “Good on his toes”
Musical Intelligence “More Mozart than Einstein”
Interpersonal intelligence “People smart”
Intrapersonal intelligence “Knows thyself”
Naturalist intelligence “Nature lover”
Kembler (1995) states ” student progress can be enhanced if the design of a course concentrates on developing intrinsic motivation and a deep approach to subject matter. Academic integration can also be improved by developed collective affiliation and ensuring congruence between student expectations and course procedures” (p. 160). How are students intrinsically motivated? Enjoyment, excitement, convenience, security, feeling like a contributing part of a community, humor and variety (Moore & Kearsley, 2012).
So, the potential students that we are designing a credit recovery course may already be considered “at risk” learners. Kids who have a below average reading level, don’t like school (I was one of these in high school), may have dropped out due to unforeseen circumstances, or perhaps just didn’t do the homework to pass the class. Can intrinsic motivation actually be manufactured in an online course? I guess we will try and see! I like that our group has made an effort along the way to keep in mind that some of the requirements for our standards are going to require a lot of commitment from the students.
The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBCTs) web page, found at, has several links that are designed to support instructors and defines criteria that will help us give support to out online instructors as well as our potential students. The above link is for their The Five Core Propositions, “form the foundation and frame the rich amalgam of knowledge, skills, dispositions and beliefs that characterize National Board Certified Teachers” (NBCTs, 2014). Check it out!!!

Kember, D. (1995). Open learning for adults: A model of student progress. Englewood Cliffs. NJ: Educational Technology

Moore, M., and Kearsley, G. (2012). Distance Education: A Systems View of Online Learning. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. (2014). Five core propositions. Retrieved from

teAchology. (2014). What is multiple intelligence theory. Retrieved from


2 thoughts on “#oltak Creating successful environments for students

  1. Hey, Naomi…
    I have struggled with the question of “how much is too much” in terms of work required of students for our ELA credit recovery class. All of the readings (and my own experience as a teacher) tell me that students must be engaged, engaged, engaged in an online class. That’s key. Yep, got it. However, high school students taking credit recovery classes often simply are not engaged. They don’t really like school, they see little (any?) purpose in reading Shakespeare or writing essays, and if there is work required that takes time outside of the school day, they simply will not do it. So…how does one create a class that “engages” this type of learner in an online environment? If a teacher in a f2f setting wasn’t able to cajole, encourage, and tug the student along (and they may have had the benefit of a sincere relationship built on several semesters together — especially in a small school where the student and teacher may work together for four to six years or even longer), how can an “unknown” online instructor rapidly create the kind of connection necessary to encourage this student along? Huge question; huge challenge. The greatest motivation may be that, for most students, they will need this credit to graduate.

    Still, the task must be do-able for a student who may have limited skills — which is another challenge. In our team meeting last week, we talked about extended writing assignments, with one paper perhaps being 5-10 pages in length. In all seriousness, this requirement alone could well be a reason for struggling students I have known to say “Forget it.” While I want us to hold high standards for the course, the rural teacher part of my brain who has seen student after student fail ELA classes because they lack skills that simply were never gained in elementary grades…and only increased as years went by…recognizes the reality that some students simply do not have the skill set to accomplish such a task.

    Whew. There are so many big issues that have been thrust into the spotlight as a result of this task. Lots to think about. Huge implications for students, and course designers, and teachers. All of us.

  2. Thanks for the response Tammy. I will say that when I was in high school, I hated it. I thought it was a complete waste of time. I had a job, my own apartment and was living my life!! When second semester of my senior year came around I met with an academic counselor (for the first time since 8th grade probably) and was told I was 6 credits short of graduating. I was given the option to not graduate and come back in the fall or go to SAVE to get the credits done in time. I tell you what, getting those credits to graduate was motivation enough. I still hated high school and had had better things to do with my time but I’d be damned if I was not going to graduate and have to go back later that year. If that’s all the motivation it takes to get students through our recovery course then so be it. I think that the on-sight/para may just want to recognize that and use it as encouragement….from personal experience, it may just be the factor that works! 🙂

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