Needed: a GPS for the new world of distance learning

I am more than half way through my course: two modules down, half way through the third. Most of the time I feel like a stranger in a strange land. Despite all my years of using a computer and exploring the Internet, I spend a lot of my time LOST. There are two aspects to life online: the first is to complete the tasks; the second is to post it in the right place so that fellow students (learners) and the instructor (facilitator) can see it. It is the second aspect that is befuddling me.

I have deduced that those are who effective online have a certain intuition about what to do, how to do it, what link to click, how to get where they’re going, and how to function once they arrive. It is sort of a cyber sense of direction. I don’t have it, or any sense of direction, for that matter. It makes thing difficult, not to mention time consuming and embarrassing. I am forever asking, “Where should I post this?” or worse yet, putting my assignment in the wrong place. Then, someone figures out where it is, retrieves it, and puts it where it belongs. This happens a lot.

There are twenty-four people in my class; they range from novices to experts who seem to handle all of this with ease and aplomb. Their schedules are loaded: teaching all day and sometimes at night, running online departments, juggling homes and families, going for their PhDs, and more. I feel sort of guilty about having only two other major obligations—running a business and taking care of clients.

The “takeaway” from all of this is that I can clearly see what my future students will be feeling as they struggle not only to learn how to write a book, but first, how to learn in this new online environment. I have reams of printed material on this subject, but nothing is as powerful of going through it. Come to think of it, I guess that’s the point!

As a new student, I need the following:

  • Description and/or map of the home page. What is each section called? What is its function/value? How often am I supposed to go there? What will I miss if I don’t go there?
  • Clearly spelled out goals for each assignment. What am I expected to learn and why is it important? How will it fit with other lessons?
  • Explicit, step-by-step directions for everything I am expected to do. Do this first; then, do this. Don’t do this. When I am finished, go to this exact location and post it this way.
  • Explicit, step-by-step directions for getting around Moodle, Blackboard, Elluminate, Google Docs, and other ways to communicate with the instructor and fellow students
  • Clear labels/descriptions of destination sites that match the names of the locations described above. What is this? What should go here?
  • Private, synchronous (real-time) access to instructor to answer my questions and dispel confusion.
  • Direct answers to my very direct questions (no hoping I will infer or somehow “get it; I won’t)

I know there is more that I need, and as I get closer to the end, I will know what it is. Stay tuned.





Bobbi Linkemer is a writing coach, ghostwriter, editor, as well as the author of eighteen books under her own name. Her passion is helping writers at all levels to convey their messages through books. In her forty-five-year career, Ms. Linkemer has written on hundreds of topics for magazines, individuals, and organizations in both the private and public sectors. She has been a feature writer, a magazine editor, and a corporate communicator. Her clients range from Fortune 100 companies to entrepreneurs and individuals who want to share their stories or build their businesses. Bobbi Linkemer • 314-968-8661

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One comment on “Needed: a GPS for the new world of distance learning
  1. Rich L says:

    WE know that you are and have always been a top student your entire life.
    I feel if you are having these problems that there are things IN THE COURSE and WITH THE INSTRUCTORS that are MISSING. You nor any of the other students should be having these problems.
    However, I think this is a wonderful experience for you and your fellow students to teach you what needs to be in your courses when you design, and get your businesses started.

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