Setting up an Online Learning Experience

As students, when considering taking an online course, we examine all the technologies that we will need and that are available. As an instructor, we must do the same. Knowing the basics or essentials of technology and the technologies that will be used in your classes is imperative. According to Boettcher and Conrad (2010), when designing a first course, one should keep it simple and design around using he essential tools of the course. Once you have those down, you can expand your technologies.

Some of the basics are being able to upload documents, setting up discussion boards, using the gradebook, assigning students to groups, and learning to use the course management system (Blackboard, Moodle, Sakai, etc.) for your institution. If you are unsure of the CMS, ask your institution if they have online programs, workshops or tutorials so you may learn to use it properly (Boettcher and Conrad, 2010).
Several basic used are: email, announcements, audio/video lectures, blogs, and more.

Of the core learning principles, “Learners bring their own personalized and customizable knowledge, skills, and attitudes to the experience” (Boettcher and Conrad, 2010). Communication is key, especially in an online environment where there is little to no face to face interaction between students and instructor. If the information is given in a clear and concise manner, then there will be little room for ambiguity and miscommunication. “Clear and unambiguous guidelines about what is expected of learners and what they should expect from an instructor make a significant contribution to ensuring understanding and satisfaction in an online course’ (Boettcher and Conrad, 2010).

Clarifying how this will work or not work will help to create a trusting learning environment. Other considerations that need to be taken into account when setting up an online learning environment are international time zones, cultures, and ELL students. The first issue can be worked around through the use of email, especially if the “office” hours do not coincide with decent contact times. The instructor and the student can work out their communications.

Other cultures may observe different holidays than the US and this will need to be taken into consideration. The third item on the list is English Language learners. Their grammar and syntax may not be perfect however, we can all learn from one another. Hopefully, they will ask for help if/when needed.


Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.


4 thoughts on “Setting up an Online Learning Experience

  1. I love your captures, and at times I wish the dog would swallow our CMS. We recently switched over to a new CMS and it has more problems than solutions. You stated, “Some of the basics are being able to upload documents, setting up discussion boards, using the gradebook, assigning students to groups, and learning to use the course management system (Blackboard, Moodle, Sakai, etc.) for your institution.” As an Online Instructor, we must be able to answer the learners’ issues with the CMS, but if the Technology cannot answer the questions for us, we are the ones that look stupid to the learners. Sometimes CHANGE isn’t good.


  2. Hi Chuck!

    I liked them too. The first one is actually my current situation. Hopefully. . . Dell will have my baby up and running again soon! I NEED all of my programs on there! My computer is up to date. The one I have borrowed is XP and slower than mine. I am used to having as many as 20 windows open in various softwares and internet screens. I cannot do that with this one. The keyboard is smaller and keys are missing. I think one of the other things is to make sure a student / instructor has a computer in good repair and as up to date as possible. My issues are hardware so not much I could do without voinding the warranty.

    As far as a CMS goes, it would drive me nuts if I could not guide a student through the issue if it was something I could do that wasn’t a real “TECHIE” issue. At my last job, we desperately needed a change of software. It was NOT user friendly nor efficient and effective. I hated it. We finally got a new system, CAP60, specifically designed for our needs. It was AWESOME!! Because of the lack of usability, not user ability, of the previous system, I had created my own Excel sheets. CAP60 mirrored many of my creations!


    P.S. I WISH a dog had peed on the first CMS. We would have gotten a new one sooner! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. kmeyer421 says:

    I really liked the cartoons as well. They really added to the post and made the content relevant.

    I can also feel your pain with regard to a CMS–we have one at my job that is also not user friendly and is so cumbersome to do basic tasks when managing the training items of our employees. I want to create more e-learning modules but will have to figure out how to link any quizzes or assessments from them to the CMS and based on the horrible way it manages simple tasks like changing due dates for assignments, I am shuddering in horror already!

    What is your take on accessibility and usability of tools? What are the biggest factors with these areas?

    • Hi KIm!

      Thank you. Sometimes it takes longer to find THE capture than it does to write a post. ๐Ÿ™‚ I hate the fact that you dread your CMS. They should be productive tools not time eating machines because they are terrible programs.

      If a technology is not user friendly, I will toy with it for a whilein an earnest attempt to learn what I need to do. This was a real pain with one CMS at work as no one had time (nor the inclination) to train me. I created my own Excel and Word docs so I could have reports that I needed. It was MUCH faster.

      In my opinion, in order for a student to be successful, to FEEL successful, a tool either needs to be user friendly, or there needs to be some kind of user training available.

      Accessibility is another issue. If the technology is a tool that is based online and not available for download to a PC, it could create an issue for those who do not have interent access 24/7. I had one online class with another university and chooose the option to have an ebook because it was cheaper (bad idea and won’t do it again). It was a mistake. I am a traditional “book” person and missed having the book readily available. It made the study sessions much longer as we only had dial up at the house. The best idea for that class was spending a lot of time at McDonald’s hooked into their WIFI. The downside – the seats were not comfy and there was only one wall plug. Since there were several of us coming for the internet, I brought a power strip so we could all share, The upside – met a lot of nice people and the kids at Mickey D’s already knew my order. ๐Ÿ™‚

      When it is all said and done, we need to have tools that are accessible and user friendly. We want our students to succeed not fail or drop because the technology was too difficult to use. Boettcher & Conrad (2010) stated, ” you want to encourage the tools that are rhe most useful for supporting collaboration, learning, and project coaching.”

      I wonder, why there are so many CMSs out there that are not fully functional and user friendly? Is it really that difficult to write a program to do what you need it to do?



      Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

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