Recently, I was asked to give a simple example of what an online learning designer (LD) would do...
Online learning delivery models: what to consider
When learning organisations commit to the design and delivery of online courses, they make decisions that reflect their brand promise as a provider of quality learning opportunities in a competitive market. What needs to be considered when choosing online delivery models?
At Oppida, we believe that there are 3 critical questions that a learning organisation must ask in order to decide on the most effective online delivery models.
- Who are we designing this course for and what do they need to succeed?
- What are our internal online delivery models capabilities and resources?
- What is our learning organisation’s value proposition and how can this be leveraged through our online course design and delivery?
Once established, successful online courses require support for facilitators / academics as well as systems and processes to ensure course integrity, agility and longevity.
Common ways to think about online learning delivery models
The choice of online delivery models can be a complex and multi-faceted decision that is heavily influenced by the learning organisation’s approach to the ‘critical questions’ listed above.
Online delivery models tend to fall into 3 broad categories of facilitator commitment. These are known as low, medium and high ‘touch’ online delivery models, as described in the table below.
Keeping the differences between these touches in mind, let’s examine the 3 key questions we highlighted above.
Q1: Who are we designing this course for and what do they need to succeed?
Today’s global students are now accustomed to beautiful online experiences. There is a lot of competition for online users’ attention and students’ willingness to desert a platform or app that has a poor User Experience (UX) is high. It is therefore critical to design engaging online learning experiences that retain students and achieve the desired learning outcomes. The online delivery models that surround the learning have an equally important part to play in the overall student experience. We recommend asking these questions about the students you are designing for:
- How experienced are your students in online learning?
- What kind of relationship with academics best supports their stage of learning?
- Are they working full time?
- How much time do they have available for engaging with online learning?
- What devices are they using to learn?
- How much peer to peer collaboration can be designed in?
EXAMPLE: If your students are inexperienced with online learning or have lower tech skills than most, it will be important that they have regular access to a facilitator. They will want to know someone is there to help and answer their questions promptly. Medium touch online delivery models might be best.
Students at more advanced levels (e.g., post-graduate) may also seek deeper, mentoring-style relationships with academic staff to support higher-level research and critical thinking skill development, as well as career-related guidance.
Q2: What are our internal online delivery models capabilities and resources?
The transition from face-to-face to interactive online learning models requires a shift in the use of staff time and, hence, resourcing. For online courses, less time is spent on course presentation and more time is required for design and planning. An organisational culture of collaboration is another critical success factor.
If you decided on medium touch facilitation, support is needed for your students as well as academics and/or course facilitators. Consider:
- Online delivery training
- LMS support for students.
Regardless of whether courses are being run internally or by casual staff, solid onboarding processes are needed. These should include:
- Conversations about student expectations and how to get support
- LMS training
- Unit orientations and assessment considerations.
Online delivery training
Even experienced educators may need support to transition their craft to the online mode. What worked in a face to face classroom won’t always work online (or needs to be adapted).
LMS support for students
Ideally, academics and facilitators are not dealing with trivial LMS issues. There should be a student support team managing this and other student queries unrelated to the academic content.
EXAMPLE: You have decided to go with a high touch model and therefore require weekly webinars. To support your facilitators you may create some training on how to use Zoom effectively for engagement and also how to design dynamic online webinars. You could also set up a buddy system whereby new facilitators watch and observe experiences and build in opportunities for sharing tips and tricks.
Q3: What is our learning organisation’s value proposition and how can this be leveraged through our online course design and online delivery models?
In an increasingly competitive market, creating and upholding your value proposition is critical. If you stand for ‘Engaging and collaborative learning communities’ then it could be seen as a contradiction to choose low touch online delivery models. We know that without facilitation it’s hard to get students to engage with each other.
In addition, if you have decided that your competitive edge will be ‘Experienced and dynamic online facilitators’ then you must invest in creating courses that allow for dynamic facilitation and support ongoing professional development for your facilitators.
We hope that these 3 questions, if posed and considered, will support organisations to have a conversation about online delivery models early in the course design process.