What Administrators Should Know About Online Learning

Lizzie Ottenstein
Shreejana Mainali
An administrator using her tablet and making plans to run the online classes smoothly.

A shift to online learning that could have taken months was done in a matter of weeks and continues today. In an ongoing effort, teachers are making their material accessible online while students adjust to learning from screens and recorded lectures. A successful online learning experience is impossible without the involvement of and communication with administrators. 

Administrators all over the world are working tirelessly to make the online learning experience one that is effective and powerful, but they would be remiss to do so without the input of students and teachers. Here are a few things we want administrators to know about online learning. 

From a Student’s Perspective:

Online orientation program 

The transition to online learning involves navigating foreign online platforms that not all students are familiar with. It would be awesome if administrators created a virtual orientation program to help students learn the fundamentals of their online learning platform. This would cover how to login, access features, upload or download course materials, find grades, and ways they can communicate with their teachers and classmates. It might also identify policies and procedures that students should abide by.  

Make the online platform valuable

Now that we know how to use the online platform, it’s important to ensure this platform is truly valuable. Learning online can seem less serious to some students than learning in an in person classroom. To address this, administrators should train teachers to develop original content (not from YouTube or other e-learning sites), to enhance student engagement, which is especially important to keep up enrollment and retention. 

Enable student support services

Support services also improves the retention of online students, especially during these challenging times. Administrators should be aware that students may have different needs during these times and revise policies to better support those who may lack resources (like internet access) accordingly. Tools like hands-on-training sessions, easy access to library databases, career-oriented services, advisors and counsellors, policies regarding plagiarism, ebooks, and other study related materials would help. 

From a Faculty Perspective:

Define a workload

Administrator awareness of the unmanaged workloads of teachers is crucial. Taking an active role in planning, managing, and defining suitable workloads to avoid disparities among teachers is important. To do so, administrators could develop consistent syllabus templates for courses. Incorporation of tenure and promotion opportunities with workload adjustments can help faculty stay motivated too. 

Encourage feedback

During these uncertain times, it’s important for administrators to be open to feedback from everyone in their community as everyone has a different and unique experience. Creating a standardized process for gathering faculty input and feedback before and after planning the online programs would help. Administrators should create an environment where all teachers can have a constructive voice. 

Training opportunities and managing support staff

Transforming the materials of an in-person class to one that can be accessed online takes knowledge of online platforms, something some instructors may not have. To address this need, administrators should assess necessary training and direct faculty members toward appropriate resources over time. Administrators should also manage (or hire) a dedicated support staff to serve as student and teacher advocates and facilitate smooth communication throughout the system. The digitization of content is a large part of the transition online, and we’ll be compiling a list of resources soon. 

Managing a school wide transition to a completely different way of learning is a huge feat. To make sure it remains a successful one, there needs to be clear and continuous communication between administrators, students, and faculty. There is something everyone can do to help, and the above are just a few ways to ensure a thriving online learning environment.