Between the COVID-19 pandemic shaking up in-person learning, increasingly busy schedules, and even adults eager to pursue continuing education, online education has never been more popular. Many institutions are now offering virtual instruction to accommodate these needs. Online education opportunities can be just as enriching as in-person learning, but other times these courses can fall short.

Here are some things to avoid when offering virtual programs to ensure an enriching educational experience for both your instructors and participants. 

Don’t Overlook the Instructors 

Many administrators may assume that online courses take up the same, or even less work, than in-person courses for instructors. This is simply not true. While educators don’t have to take the physical time to be in the classroom, preparing varied, enriching resources, moderating discussions, and even editing videos take up as much time as delivering live instruction. 

Delivering programs online is a different art than face-to-face instruction, and it’s extremely prudent to offer instructors transitioning from brick-and-mortar programs specialized training in creating a productive environment. 

Don’t Enforce a Purely Synchronous Schedule

One of the key reasons many students choose online courses over traditional ones is the flexibility they offer. Participants who select online courses may have jobs with hectic schedules, family obligations, or be parents trying to fit continuing education into their schedule. While the in-person version of a course may meet three times a week, this could be less-than-practical, and even ineffective, for online courses.

Online courses, by their very nature, tend to invite less open discussion than a classroom setting or lecture hall may. Instructors feel less approachable, and peers may simply look like usernames. Instead of three synchronous meetings, consider one large group lesson and then several time-slot options for “breakout groups,” where participants can meet with peers to bounce ideas. Mandatory discussion threads can also invite this environment and facilitate easier learning. 

Don’t Assume One Size Fits All

It can be harder to form personal relationships with participants online due to the nature of online instruction. Just like in a real classroom, one size does not fit all for participants– But being separated by a screen can make it that much more difficult to gauge which participants are struggling. Offering a variety of materials can be hugely beneficial.

Avoid long, lecture-style videos in general, and instead, aim for shorter bites of information. Providing links to articles or written resources can add an additional option for those who struggle to make sense of audio-heavy material. In addition, it’s important to monitor comments and make commenting on materials accessible, inviting, and most of all, encouraging for participants.

Online learning has come far from its beginnings and will continue to evolve as needs change over time. Avoiding the aforementioned pitfalls, however, will help keep your virtual programs on track for success.