Real-Time Platforms Add Personal Touch to Online Learning

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Real-Time Platforms Add Personal Touch to Online Learning

Online learning has moved to the next level. Instructors can now administer their courses with real-time data feeds, enabling interactions in the moment.

Close to two decades ago, I collaborated with a professor friend to participate in an early rollout of an online-only college course, through which I delivered virtual lectures. The entire exercise – from video and text-based content delivery to online discussions with students – was asynchronous, meaning postings, viewing sessions, and discussions all occurred at varying times, often days apart.

Fast forward to 2011, as the first MOOCs (massive online open courses) appear on the scene. I enrolled, along with 200,000 other students, in Sebastian Thrun’s ground-breaking course on artificial intelligence, which was self-paced, with videos and interactive tests posted on a weekly basis.

Online learning goes real-time

Now, online courses have moved to the next level, in which instructors can administer their courses with real-time data feeds, enabling interactions at the moment.

As education is increasingly delivered online, there are new possibilities for real-time interaction between educators and students. That’s the word from Erin Brereton, who notes in a recent issue of EdTech: Focus on Higher Education. Online learning is seen as a huge piece of the future of higher education, Brereton says.

[ Related: The Rise of Real-Time Data: Prepare for Exponential Growth ]

“Faculty can provide coursework from a learning management system and measure track student learning and program outcomes,” Brereton says. “The real-time data that some learning management system platforms provide can help faculty see patterns, such as how many students answer introductory-level questions incorrectly, to determine what extra resources are needed.”

Instructors can provide course interactions both real-time, as well as providing archives of recorded lectures. Class discussions, with all give and take, include all participants from across their globe, who are assembled virtually. Also, imagine having the ability to monitor, in real-time, student sentiments and reactions to material being presented or discussed.

[ Related: How Real-Time Employee Feedback Improves Productivity ]

Real-time platforms enable students to engage and interact as if they were all in the same room, at the same time. The difference is instructors will have data in front of them as well – something previous not available in on-site classes.

Real-time create online learning community

In another recent post, Amy Peterson provides advice about introducing real-time interaction in classes. The asynchronous postings and presentations introduce lag time, which “kills the momentum of a back-and-forth discussion and can sometimes lead to misunderstandings,” she writes. “Integrating opportunities for real-time interaction into your online course can help change that and develop a sense of community in a course. Consider how impromptu conversations outside the traditional classroom forge relationships, clarify ideas, and spark new insights. You can facilitate these interactions by setting up opportunities for class members to meet online synchronously both formally and informally. Using webconferencing applications, you can create a variety of synchronous interaction opportunities, such as office hours, small group discussions, whole class discussions, and study groups.”

The rise of real-time learning platforms provides an additional value to online education environments as well, Pat Donachie observes that personal interaction – very important to students – is enhanced. “Students in a separate survey actually spoke about the desire to have in-person or face-to-face interaction as a part of their online learning experience, which supports the assertion that the success of online learning may be dependent on establishing and maintaining a human connection between students and educators, and between students and their peers.”

About Joe McKendrick

Joe McKendrick is RTINsights' Industry Insights Editor in charge of contributed case studies. He is a regular contributor to Forbes on digital, cloud and Big Data topics (full bio). Follow him on Twitter @joemckendrick.

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