by Jason Dockter, Ph.D., professor of English
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Lincoln Land Community College’s formation; but perhaps more impressive is that LLCC has been providing online educational options for students for approximately half of that time. Nearly 20 years ago, a few people at LLCC began to consider how they could harness the power of the internet to provide additional opportunities for students to gain access to educational opportunities. By not being bound to a specific location, day, or time, online courses enable students to consider taking courses that otherwise might not fit into their busy lives. At that time, online education was beginning to take shape in higher education, and LLCC was right there helping to figure out how courses could function online.
In the past 20 years, many things have changed about how online courses are created and offered to students. Computers have gotten smaller, the internet has gotten faster, and the technology is everywhere – prevalent in nearly all aspects of our lives. Online tools are built into everything from our phones to our cars to our budgets – all of this makes online education a much more comfortable educational option than it was 20 years ago. It’s the perfect time to consider taking an online class or two.
At Lincoln Land, the professors who teach online courses recognize that many students are still a bit hesitant to try this learning format. I’ll demonstrate a few things online instructors at Lincoln Land do to help minimize those concerns.
First, online instructors try to form a community for teaching and learning to happen for the same reasons that traditional classroom instructors do the same thing. Early on in the semester, instructors try to help students get to know each other and to get to know the instructor through specific activities that begin to help all class participants recognize who is enrolled within the class. Steps like these help students feel connected to the teacher and to other students, making online learning more personable and engaging.
Helping students to form clearer perceptions of others in the class also enhances a student’s sense of comfort, which is critically important in any learning context. Online faculty work to create a class that is logically organized and help students understand the layout and pacing of each specific class, which helps students feel more aware of how each individual online class functions. This ensures that online students can put their energy into learning about course content and not worrying about how to navigate the class.
At LLCC, online faculty recognize that technology can help to decrease the distance between faculty and students in online courses. A key to doing this is to establish a clear understanding of when and how communication will occur within the class and to utilize tools like class announcements, email and the discussion board in ways that enhance the conversations occurring within a class. Frequent, timely participation from both faculty and students ensure that all members of the class are sharing in the experience of the class and learning about the content and each other along the way.
Lincoln Land has been actively engaged in online teaching and learning for nearly half of its existence. Since the beginning, efforts to improve and increase the online offerings have been consistent, aiming to ensure that quality, affordable and convenient educational opportunities are available to all our district students.