The number of online training platforms have expanded in recent years. In fact, some colleges and universities have created their own platforms, adding to the surplus of options offered to colleges and universities who wish to properly utilize online learning platforms for training faculty and teaching students. These platforms range in abilities and features, from streamlined to offering a wide variety of options to accommodate the user’s preferences. Institutions can choose the online training platform of their dreams, one that will best fit their needs and, ultimately, the needs of their students.
How, then, can we best utilize these training platforms to combine form with function or freedom with conformity? It is a delicate balancing act to be sure. However, it can be achieved by carefully and thoroughly illustrating the need to create streamlined courses while integrating dynamic content that best suits the faculty members’ respective teaching styles. After all, without an organized foundation in an online training platform how will those enrolled easily find the vibrant materials located within each course?
In-depth initial training for faculty is crucial as they begin to integrate multimedia elements like YouTube, Ted Talks videos, social media components like Facebook or Twitter, or simply links to a website that contains course or assignment-specific interactive activities. Broken links and confusing directions on how to access the material will only frustrate and, ultimately, turn off students, even those who are relatively tech-savvy. Students must also receive training in the form of a new student orientation. While including information on the college or university provides a nice foundational aspect to an orientation it is especially helpful to point students in the right direction so that they can easily access any links, online tutorials, or other forms of multimedia. Like the professors who teach them, students will not reap the full benefits of the courses they are taking if they cannot fully access all the online training platform has to offer.
Once everyone on both sides of the virtual desk have gone through their own training courses and orientations it is time to focus on continued education and development for faculty members and support for students. For example, access to the student orientation course should continue even after the term has started so that students can access it throughout their first term if a refresher is ever needed. On the faculty side, support does not end after a course is built; rather, continued maintenance from staff members such as faculty developers or instructional designers will help in circumventing any potential issues and may provide further inspiration to any instructors who wish to augment their course material with new or updated multimedia materials.
Thoughtful, carefully planned use of an online training platform is a must if educators want to take full advantages of the tools found within as they showcase their creativity in delivering course content. This is where continuing faculty development and guidance is critical as not every educator is going to want to use the same type of tool in their courses. An English professor will of course want to incorporate different links and tutorials than an instructor who teaches cyber security courses. What resources will work best for each professor and where should they be placed? Will they want to integrate multimedia throughout the course or restrict it to a specific section? Or both? Are videos a better fit with the subject matter or should the faculty use websites that require more in-depth reading? These types of questions will not only assist faculty in deciding which multimedia to choose for their courses, giving them control over their work, but they also aid in creating a cohesive, organized learning environment.