The demand for online learning has grown dramatically in recent years. This is partly due to changing learner expectations of the use of technology, and also as a result of the government’s response to recommendations from the Further Education Learning Technology Action Group (FELTAG).
Successful implementation of online learning of any sort involves much more than placing materials and activities in an online environment.
What you can do
Assess your current situation
There are many strategic and operational questions to address as an institution if you are going to make a success of online learning.
Our guide to scaling up online learning provides a strategic view of different models and the implications of implementing online learning at an institutional level. This, along with related guides on curriculum design and technologies, includes a dedicated checklist to work through while you are in the planning stages of any implementation.
Choose the right approach for you
Many institutions are taking a blended learning approach that combines online activity with more traditional face-to-face learning.
Heart of Worcestershire College developed the SOLA (scheduled online learning and assessment) programme along these lines, while Plymouth University created a seamless digital learning environment to support the delivery of different types of online learning.
Many institutions have made courses openly available online to potentially massive audiences. These are often known as MOOCs (massive open online courses). Our report on open media classes at Coventry University identifies how adopting a radical approach to online delivery had many benefits for the university’s media department.
Select the right technologies
Successful online learning implementation requires robust platforms and technology that makes the learner experience as productive and enjoyable as possible.
You’ll find ideas, resources and case studies around the use of technology to support online courses and distance learning programmes in our guide to technology and tools for online learning.
You may already have sufficient institutional technologies to support online learning activities. If they are not fit for purpose then our advice on selecting technologies provides a framework for decision-making in this area.
Design your curriculum around the online experience
Teaching and learning in online spaces can be very different from face-to-face methods. Careful curriculum design is important to make the most of the opportunities and manage the risks.
Our guide to developing successful staff-student partnerships will help you explore involving your learners as active partners in curriculum design, while our guide to using digital media in new learning models gives advice on creating resources that will work well for online learning.
Support your learners
Understanding the expectations and experiences of your online learners is a priority. A good place to start is our report on what makes a successful online learner (pdf).
Developing your online learning provision is a powerful way of widening participation in education.
Some learners with particular needs may find an online environment more effective for them. For practical advice, explore our guides on meeting the requirements of learners with special educational needs and enhancing support for staff with disabilities.
Institutions have a duty of care to make sure that learners can make the most out of the online environment without feeling vulnerable. Our guidance on safeguarding learners will help get you started with ensuring your learners know how to behave safely and responsibly in the digital space.
Looking ahead – supporting staff
Teaching and managing learners in online environments requires a very particular skill set, and we know that leaders, teaching and support staff need help to develop these. We’re focusing on this through our digital capabilities project and have already launched a comprehensive digital leaders training programme.
Keep an eye on both these projects for emerging resources and advice.