As Tracey Nirldon prepares to take her first online courses, Introduction to Teaching, she discovers that there are a number of things being expected of her. She notes there are technical expectations, assignments and due dates, and the use of a course management tool she’s not used before. What can Tracey do to make it easier on herself to get started? What can her instructor provide in the way of assistance to help get started.

I would say, the institution where Tracy has registered for her course, should provide first e-learners with an online orientation program. The overall purpose of this online orientation program is to effectively introduce and share information about the online courses/ programs so that all first time users would demonstrate success by being prepared to finish the course on time. The main purpose of this orientation program, however, is to decrease students’ difficulty in locating program and course information while increasing students’ understanding of how best to meet the programs course objectives. To organize this orientation specific topic areas are required. That is, course expectation, time management, and review of technologies used in online environment. There are also other styles that institutions may take into consideration to ease students’ orientation, such as providing students with digital hand book, useful links, and a virtual orientation of the campus.

There are other features that might help students like Tracy to get started easier. For example, the respective institution may create a high quality video to welcome students, or feature some students’ point of view about the online courses (Dixon et al., 2012).

According to cognitive theory of multimedia communication, the orientation not only should present the information about online courses, but also prime the appropriate cognitive processing in the learner. That is, institutions/ instructors should facilitate academic and social interaction, increase student involvement, and enhance the sense of belonging to e- learning community (Scagnoli, 2001). This bridging and bonding between offline and online situations may increase the social capital of students which consequently may involve them in cooperative activities such as problem solving in group works, etc.

On the other hand, due to the nature of online courses, students should be clearly informed of the expectations of the courses. They should be informed that participation in online programs affects the students’ learning, learning about the technology and how it works may accelerate their progress, and developing an effective study skill may increase their learning efficiency (Mayhew, Vanderlinden, & Kim, 2010).

Furthermore, instructional design specialist may use their skills to design online courses more effectively. This may begin with an analysis of context, learner, and learners’ performances. It may consider individual characteristics such entry levels, prerequisites, socioeconomics, and learning style to create a course that is attractive for a diversity of students.

The process may begin by a self assessment. Students may complete a self assessment to see if online learning is the best method of learning for them or not. The survey provided by instructors may also identify other strength or weaknesses of students in an online learning environment. Some of the weaknesses are the inability of student to self- discipline, and procrastination which cause students to fall behind. Effective instructional design may tell students how to manage the time and excel in their courses.

There are considerably other issues that might be better to avoid them in an online learning environment. In my opinion, the most important downfall of an online course is that the program provides a sense of disengaging between students and instructors. These normally happen, when the course is redesigned from a face to face lesson and the learning materials have been put up online without any specific alternation for e-learning environment. The lack of instructors’ skills to teach and communicate in an online environment may cause frustration and easily would disengage students from the course.

In conclusion, to help students like Tracy to be engaged more effectively in online courses we need to clarify first the differences between online and face to face courses. That is, students will be introduced to advantages and disadvantage of learning in an online environment. On the other hand, students should be cognizant of setting goals and plans for academic success. It means that online learning requires a huge amount of discipline and students should learn how to manage their time. Moreover, they need to know how to success in an online environment. Some students are not aware of course due dates and don’t know that their virtual instructor may have office hours in case they had difficulties to understand the course. Other issues that might be of importance are problems that students typically encounter. For example, technical problems that might occur by searching the internet due to lack of necessary plug-ins or problems related to their learning style.

It makes students like Tracy less confused when instructors interacts with students and set things in motion by managing communications. For example, by creating a uniform announcement area which reminds students about upcoming events, announcing week’s activities, updating syllabus, etc. moreover, instructors should encourage participation and manage the class size so that students could easily interact with each other.

Successful teaching and learning at distance depends on the efforts of instructors and learners. Tracy may follow all abovementioned instruction to get herself familiarized with the course. On the other hands, instructors should facilitate her learning in this environment as well.


Dixon, M., Beveridge, P., Farrior, C., Williams, B. A., Sugar, W., & Brown, A. (2012). Development of an online orientation for an instructional technology masters program. TechTrends: Linking research and practice to improve learning, 56(6), 44–48.

Mayhew, M. J., Vanderlinden, K., & Kim, E. K. (2010). A multi-level assessment of the impact of orientation programs on student learning. Research in higher education, 51(4), 320–345. doi:10.1007/s11162-009-9159-2

Scagnoli, N. I. (2001). Student orientation for online programs. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 34(1), 19–27.