When Susan asked me to speak to your
class, of course, I agreed. Here was an opportunity to learn from
and share with other educators perceptions regarding the experience
of teaching and learning online. Within a short time of my saying
yes, reality set in. What topic should we explore? How should I organize
my material? My questions soon turned to the students in this special
online community that Susan had asked me to join (of course - that
is you). Who are you? Where are you from? What do you do? What
are your needs? How do you learn? What motivates you?
With the help of Susan, I began
to create a profile of the learners in this class. The process
of profiling the students in this online class facilitated my ability
to prepare for our discussion and to identify opportunities for
creating collaboration and community. The following discussion
explores the profiling your online students in terms of the following:
(1) demographics, (2) access and location, (3) social and communication
needs, (4) psychological characteristics, and (5) cognitive learning
I. Profiling – Demographics
First, demographic data relevant
to your course can serve as a foundation for course construction. Data
regarding your students’ gender, age, and employment status can
provide valued insight into how to plan the course and schedule
key activities. Resources, such as the Illinois Virtual Campus
release demographic information regarding all students enrolled
in Illinois online courses and may serve as a starting point for
your demographic data collection.
Profiling – Location and Access
Second, obtaining profile data related
to your students’ backgrounds with online learning and how your
students will access your online course is essential to your ability
to effectively design web pages and course communications that
students can easily download, read, and interact with. This information
also provides some insight into what technical support your students
might require. In a research report issued by eCollege.com (Report
#99-176) in 1999, online students typically have little experience
with online learning but are comfortable with basic computer skills:
What assumptions are you making about your students’ prior
experience with online learning or their ability to access your course?
You may wish to survey your students regarding the following key
- 78% of online students are taking an online
course for the first time.
- 62% of online students are novice to intermediate
- What experiences do your students have
with online learning?
- From what location will your students access
- Do your students have access to a reliable
- What software and hardware are available
to your students to access your course?
III. Profiling – Social
and Communication Needs
Third, profiling social
characteristics of your online students and what they typically
express as needs for relationships and communications as part of
a learning experience will facilitate your ability to design and
deliver course content in a meaningful manner. The Chronicle of
Higher Education (August 27, 1999) reported the following characteristics
of freshmen entering institutions of higher education in the United
Social Learning Stages: Case
studies in online learning reveal that, typically, new online students
progress through a series of Social Learning Stages as part of any
course. The stages are reflected on the following diagram:
- 83.5% of incoming freshmen report
that studying with other students is part of their normal study
- 54.2% of incoming freshmen have
participated in Internet chat
IV. Profiling – Psychological
The fourth area area that is meaningful
to profile is your assumptions related to your students’ personalities,
fears, and sources of motivation. Your assumptions impact how you
communicate with your students and how you will provide motivation
and support during the course.
The Chronicle of Higher Education (August
27, 1999) reported the following attitudes of entering freshmen:
What assumptions are you making about your students’ attitudes
and psychological characteristics? You may choose to organize your
assumptions around the following areas suggested by John Keller in Motivation
in Teaching and Learning: New Directions for Teaching and Learning:
- 37.7% of incoming college freshmen report
that they are often bored in class
- 29.6% of incoming college freshmen feel
overwhelmed by their workload
- 49.8% of incoming college freshmen consider
recognition from colleagues essential or very important
V. Profiling – Cognitive
- Attention – What best captures your students’ attention?
- Relevance – What do your students see as
relevant to their personal and career goals?
- Confidence – Where do your students lack
confidence? What fears do they have regarding their skills
- Satisfaction – What do your students perceive
as a positive learning experience?
The fifth area that is meaningful
to profile relates to the preferred learning style of your online
students. Several instruments have been created, both print and
web-based, to collect and communicate information to students about
their preferred style of learning. Data in this area supports your
ability to adapt your instruction to your unique students’ needs
and styles. One such instrument is the DVC Learning Style Survey
for College (c. 2000 Catherine Jester and Suzanne Miller, Diablo
Valley College, for Educational Uses Only). The web-based
survey is available at: http://www.metamath.com//lsweb/dvclearn.htm.
The instrument measures preferences in the Four Learning Styles:
- Visual-Verbal Learning Style
The visual - verbal learners learn best when
information is presented visually and in a written language format.
Students benefit from information that is well organized, with
essential points highlighted or outlined. Learners easily obtain
information from printed resources. Learners often picture their
notes and printed pages in their mind when they need to remember
- Visual-Nonverbal Learning Style
The visual - nonverbal learner learns best
when information is presented visually and in a picture or design
format. Learners benefit from information that is supported with
graphics and movement. Learners easily obtain information from
diagrams, charts and maps. Learners often replay a "movie" in
their mind when they need to remember something.
- Auditory-Verbal Learning Style
The auditory - verbal learner learns best
when information is presented in oral language format. Learners
are good listeners and benefit from information that is communicated
through dialogue and discussion. Learners easily obtain information
from audiotapes and group discussions. Learners often replay
a sound cue (music, tone of voice, or the way they previously
stated the information out loud) when they need to remember something.
- Tactile-Kinesthetic Learning Style
The tactile - kinesthetic learner learns best
when physically engaged in a "hands-on" activity. Learners benefit
from situations that provide objects and variables that can be
manipulated. Learners easily obtain information from their environment.
Learners often picture their surroundings and replay a physical
cue (temperature, texture) when they need to remember something.
A job aide, designed to facilitate
the application of the concepts introduced in the previous discussion,
is available by clicking on the following link: Online
Student Profile of Assumptions.
Thank you for allowing me to be
a part of your online learning experience. I look forward to sharing
our thoughts, insights, and questions.
to Guest Lectures