An online learning environment can be challenging for many students — even those who have been successful in traditional learning environments.

Unfamiliarity with online courses, confusion about the technologies, or being unaware of what self-directed learning entails can be huge barriers to student success in eLearning or compliance training.

Here are 5 strategies that instructional designers and teachers can use to help struggling online students succeed.

1. Build Stable Foundations

Many online learners fail because they are ill-equipped to deal with making the switch from instructor-led training (ILT) to self-driven online studying — especially if this is their first exposure to eLearning.

To help students succeed in adapting to a new learning process, you should:

  • ensure there are mandatory prep-sessions (in-person or guided-learning) to provide students with tips and tricks to embrace online learning
  • include time-management strategies
  • offer hands-on guided tours and/or links to tutorials that walk students through the online education platform before they begin their courses

2. Set the Stage

It is important to create an online environment that’s built for continued student success. Once students achieve early or incremental success with online learning, they will grow in confidence and improve their effort and outcomes.

To help facilitate this ramp-up of confidence and comfortability, you should:

  • start with relatively easy concepts, so students aren’t overwhelmed by the volume or depth of content they must absorb and understand
  • design your content in “bite-sized” modules
  • initially offer liberal acceptable timeframes for submission of assignments and coursework, so students don’t feel rushed to learn both the content and the UX at the same time
  • make initial assessments, quizzes, and tests relatively easy, to build students’ confidence in their aptitude and in the quizzing or test-taking functionality — but don’t make them too easy

3. Put Students in Charge of Their Own Success

One of the best tools for eLearning success is the learner’s ability to self-direct and control their learning process.

You can help facilitate this by:

  • allowing online learners to personalize their environments – colors, fonts, backgrounds, avatars, greeting messages etc. – in order to make their learning experience more inviting and enjoyable
  • enabling learners to chart their own route through the curriculum (within reason)
  • providing easy access to features that allow students to review or repeat segments of a course
  • supplying optional resources, like videos, PowerPoint presentations, handouts (PDFs), audio files, and research links that students can use for a deeper dive into the content at their own pace and as needed

4. Monitor Progress Closely

Being able to detect when a student is struggling is a critical step that allows you to intervene helpfully before that student becomes too frustrated or falls too far behind.

You can keep yourself well-apprised of your students’ progress (or challenges) by:

  • including plenty of exercises, quizzes, and tests in order to assess how clearly students are processing the content
  • providing encouraging feedback – both corrective, positive reinforcement and acclamatory – as needed
  • mandating counseling or one-on-one interventions when necessary

5. Be Available

One huge roadblock to eLearning success is the perceived bridge between students and teachers. If a student needs help in a traditional classroom, getting in touch with their instructor is as easy as raising their hand. But when you’re separated by a computer screen, it’s easy for a student to feel ignored and adrift.

To mitigate that perception, you should:

  • offer multiple ways for struggling students to approach you (via email, chat, text, etc.)
  • proactively offer to make yourself available to any student who appears to be struggling
  • create a support system of peers, alumni, or teaching aides, whom students can easily interact with online if they are struggling and if your own personal bandwidth is limited

These strategies will not only help struggling students succeed online, but they will also create a much better learning environment for all distance learners – and, in the long run, they’ll help you and your students have a more fulfilling, rewarding, and impactful learning experience.

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