How Do You Prepare Students to Learn Online?

Lynn ZimmermannBy Lynn Zimmerman
Associate Editor
Editor, Teacher Education

What do you tell your online learners?

Most universities and many high schools in the US use online and hybrid courses to teach anything from foreign languages to Physics. People around the world take part in MOOCs, free online courses with hundreds, perhaps thousands of participants. Informal courses are offered online so you can learn to knit or repair a car in the comfort of your own home. Online coursework is everywhere, and there may be the assumption that everyone knows how to “do” it.

However, instructors often find that, just like face-to-face courses, learners’ abilities, needs and motivations vary. The novelty of using technology for learning can soon wear off, so like any coursework, the online offering needs effective pedagogical strategies to provide intrinsic motivation to learn.

Online learning readiness

Let’s consider one factor that some research from the field of online learning has explored, online learning readiness (Cigdem & Ozturk, 2016; Horzuma, Kaymak, & Gungorenc, 2015). I’d like to hear about your experience. How do you prepare your students to learn in the online environment? What have you done that you find effective?

Assumption: because computers and technology are so pervasive, learners know how to use technology for learning.

Research findings: Many people know how to use social media, email, and their smartphones, but may be less sure how to use technology for educational purposes. Some studies have shown a direct correlation between a learner’s familiarity with the learning platform and their ability to use it and their motivation to participate and learn (Cigdem & Ozturk, 2016; Horzuma, Kaymak, & Gungorenc, 2015). Therefore, these researchers propose that the instructor should not assume that learners know how to use the platform and that they understand how to successfully complete assignments. Provide clear instructions on how to use the platform, give clear and direct instructions for assignments, and clear expectations.


Cigdem, H. & Ozturk, M. (2016). Critical components of online learning readiness and their relationships with learner achievement. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education-TOJDE 17 (2), 98-109.

Horzuma, M.B., Kaymak. Z.D., & Gungorenc, O.C. (2015). Structural equation modeling towards online learning readiness, academic motivations, and perceived learning. Educational Sciences: Theory & Practice, 15 (3) pp. 759-770. DOI

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