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Appealing to the Masses: Designing Online Learning Environments to Meet the Needs of Diverse Socioeconomic Groups

#Twitter: 
#olc54601
Presenter(s)
Michelle Bartlett (North Carolina State University, USA)
Jennifer Pena (North Carolina State University, USA)
Erica Ross (North Carolina State University, USA)
Session Information
October 16, 2015 - 9:30am
Track: 
Learning Effectiveness
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Practical Application
Institutional Level: 
Community Colleges
Audience Level: 
All
Session Type: 
Information Session
Location: 
Northern Hemisphere A4
Session Duration: 
45 Minutes
Session: 
Concurrent Session 9
Abstract

Learn how to utilize best practices to create and implement effective and supportive online environments for students of different ages and experiences.

Extended Abstract

Topic
Traditional classrooms are making way for hybrid and online formats which reach many more students than ever before. Embracing new technologies for course delivery helps solve problems of limited campus and classroom space, dwindling budgets, and the ever present need for increasing student enrollment.
One of the biggest challenges in creating and facilitating such classes is ensuring students feel engaged and connected to the material, each other, and the instructor. This is complicated by the diverse ages, experiences, and life stages of the students in today's classes.
On one end of the spectrum are members of Generation Z and Millenials, who are typically extremely comfortable with computers but may be easily bored. Adult students above traditional college age have varied needs and concerns, often including balancing school with work and family commitments. Their educational backgrounds and experiences run the gamut from dropping out of high school to earning advanced degrees, from using computers on a daily basis to having never sent an e-mail or typing a document.
Working with such groups of students is challenging in a traditional setting, but many of these concerns can be alleviated in online classes. Students who may be shy and non-participative in traditional courses may find more confidence in online situations. For other students, overcoming obstacles to their use of and comfort with technology are the primary challenges. Participants will learn how to help students overcome these concerns and help ease the various fears and trepidations they have based on their prior educational experiences and diverse ages.
This session will provide answers about how to utilize best practices in creating and facilitating online courses that meet the needs of such diverse learners. Popular online course delivery platforms including Moodle and Blackboard will be presented, with ways to include all students and encourage their participation utilizing tools available within each program. Additional resources including social media such as facebook, e-mail, and Twitter will also be discussed as ways to engage and communicate with students, promoting a friendly and effective online environment.
Information presented will be based on research in learning theory and the real-world experiences of the presenters who have designed, conducted, and also participated as students in online classes.
An additional proposal is being submitted for an information session about understanding the needs and concerns of students from a wide range of backgrounds and of different ages.

Goals
Attendees will have an understanding of how to build community and engagement among diverse students in online classes through the use of software, social media, and course design. They will have opportunities to ask questions and begin the process of planning their own courses around the ideas gained from this session. They will leave the session feeling more confident about the students they are likely to encounter in online classes and better equipped to prepare for them and provide a welcoming online environment in which they can learn.

Format
Presenters will utilize visual aids to demonstrate the various tools and methods for working with varied groups of students. This will be in the form of a PowerPoint, in which brainstorming and instant polling among participants will be utilized. Small groups will be created to discuss initial strategies to design, modify, and facilitate online courses that address the needs and concerns of students of varied ages and experiences. They will report ideas back to the larger group.
A website will be created, containing materials discussed, as well as contributions and questions from attendees. It is often the case that a large amount of information is discussed in such short sessions and those in attendance would like a way to learn more and interact with the presenters and fellow attendees. This website will provide a vehicle for this continued learning and sharing, even after the conference ends.