Published on 2014/04/02

Nurturing Online Learning Environments: Integrating Self-Regulation Strategies

Nurturing Online Learning Environments: Integrating Self-Regulation Strategies
As online programming moves to the center of institutional operations, there are some central elements instructional designers need to incorporate into their courses to ensure a positive learning experience.
This is the conclusion of Susan Farber’s five-part series on nurturing online learning environments. She outlines the importance of integrating self-regulation strategies, and concludes the series by providing a reading list for postsecondary leaders.

Integration of Self-Regulation Strategies

Since the 1980s, educational psychologists have observed behaviors to identify the elements and impact of self-regulation strategies on learning and performance. As a subset of meta-cognitive processes, self-regulation guides us to structure, organize and manage projects or tasks so we can successfully complete them. Sankaran and Bui noted that online learners gained much when they experienced self-efficacy and self-expectation, managed their time and employed strategies to complete course requirements.

Kathryn Ley and Dawn Young suggested four instructional principles to integrate these self-regulation strategies:

  1. Structure learning environment;

  2. Organize and transform instructional materials;

  3. Monitor learner progress; and

  4. Evaluate performance against a standard (measurement of learning aligns with instruction) (p. 94).

Understanding the value of these self-regulation strategies, becoming skilled at modeling them and offering learners several opportunities to develop and employ these strategies will help guide them to success. Instructors may need to become proactive and mindful in their planning and implementation of course activities.  As mentioned above, instructors could demonstrate an openness to collect learner feedback to guide revisions to course materials and activities. Instructors, extending their grasp of learning strategies and complex thinking skills, can offer richer exploration of content and skill, experiment with varied resources and review richer samples of student learning.

Conclusion

In recent years, some institutions have established instructional design groups to support online and traditional instructors and faculty. Some institutions and online instructors may invest time to learn more about self-regulation to guide their decisions. A careful reading of the ideas proposed in this article may yield the realization that effective instruction, whether face-to-face or online, whether traditional, formal or informal, depends on:

  1. Timely, high-quality and sensitive communication;

  2. Creation and maintenance of a community of inquiry;

  3. Instructors being mindful and proactive as they design courses and select relevant educational resources;

  4. Students’ responsibility to manage their participation in online courses; and

  5. Instructors adopting the iterative process of planning, implementing, reviewing and revising, which has become the foundation of the instructional design process.

This suggested approach requires commitment, time and thought within a context of increasing numbers of online instructors being recompensed as part-time or non-tenured employees. Online instructors would benefit greatly when they collaborate with instructional designers and subject experts (near and far) and experiment with varied options the digital and communication revolution provides us. Digital tools, multimedia and reliable communication networks facilitate instructors and learners’ functioning within potentially enriching online environments. Proactive management of the online environment is just as important as providing it and building it to attain learner success.

This is the conclusion of the five-part series by Susan Farber on creating a nurturing online learning environment. To read the other installments, please click here.

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Suggested Reading

Many of the texts in this list were referenced throughout this series. They will provide a firm footing for higher education leaders interested in developing nurturing online learning environments for their students.

Bishop, M. J. (2014). Reconceptualizing instructional message design: Toward the development of a new guiding framework. In B. Hokanson & A. Gibbons (Eds.), Design in Educational Technology: Design thinking, design process, and the design studio. (pp: 143 – 159). Switzerland: Springer International Publishing. DOI:  10.1007/978-3-319-00927-8

Dennen, V. P., Darabi, A., & Smith, L. J. (2007). Instructor-learner Interaction in online courses: The relative perceived importance of particular instructor actions on performance and satisfaction. Distance Education, 28(1), 65-79.

Garrison, D. R., & Archer, W. (2000).  A Transactional Perspective on Teaching and Learning: A Framework for Adult and Higher Education. Advances in Learning and Instruction Series. Oxford, UK: Pergamon Press

Islamoglu, H., & Branch, R. M. (2013). Promoting interest, engagement, and deep learning approach in online higher education settings. 36th Annual Proceedings Presented at the Annual Convention of the Association for Educational Communications and Technology. Pp. 444 – 451.

Ley, K. & Gannon-Cook, R. (2013). Learner-Valued Interactions: Research into Practice. 36th Annual Proceedings Presented at the Annual Convention of the Association for Educational Communications and Technology. Pp. 104 – 108.

Ley, K. & Young, D. B. (2001). Instructional principles for self-regulation. Educational Technology Research and Development, 49(2), 93 – 103.

Miller, K. (2013). The Quality Assurance Initiative’s effect on barriers for success and engagement in online education at a community college. 36th Annual Proceedings Presented at the Annual Convention of the Association for Educational Communications and Technology. Pp. 131 – 136.

Sankaran, S. R., & Bui, T. (2001). Impact of learning strategies and motivation on performance: A Study in Web-based instruction. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 28(3), 191 – 198.

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Readers Comments

RF 2014/04/02 at 1:59 pm

Great series. I’ve enjoyed reading Ms. Farber’s thoughts on how to create an effective online environment. I would place her suggestions into two categories: things that instructors can introduce and things that only institutions can implement (because of structural/administrative or resource implications).

Unfortunately, I can foresee the latter being largely ignored until we can build a solid business case for them. A challenge for Ms. Farber and her colleagues!

Francis Beyer 2014/04/02 at 7:49 pm

One area I would like to see online education improve in is monitoring student progress. Today, there are a lot of tools available to track student performance and identify issues earlier in a term (so they can be fixed).

Institutions are slowly coming around to the idea of using these tools and tracking the data, but it’s an area that should grow to be commonplace within the next decade.

Susan Farber 2014/04/03 at 2:30 pm

Both RF and Francis Beyer suggest necessary enhancements to support effective online learning environments.
Institutions do indeed have a role and responsibility; the online environment is as good as the institution’s decisions to invest in these proposed elements (as I described in this series).
Monitoring students’ progress is indeed facilitated by emerging technology tools or features! As prior innovative uses of digital media and tools, it will take some time (or maybe less) for their impact to be embraced (consider how rapidly tablets have become so commonplace!) and ubiquitous.

I appreciate your comments and appreciation for the series – and the evoLLLution’s interest to share it with all of you.

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