What makes for a successful online experience?

This is a rather open ended question that could be taken in many different ways, but the format was chosen for a reason.  There are so many variables to consider, so many possible avenues for the “best practices” in online learning.  How old are the participants in the experience?  What is their prior comfort levels with online learning?  What is the level of self-discipline of the participants? Is the course asynchronous or synchronous?  What are the platform/hardware benefits and limitations? 

Knowing that will help to achieve the following considerations.  Community building is very important; those cheesy introduction activities at the beginning become even more important when never meeting face to face.  Personal connections are important- using skype, voicethread, or other applications to enable the class to interact beyond simply using text on a screen.  Immediate feedback (or as soon as possible) is also desirable.  As part of this, having an online gradebook that allows participants to know their academic standing.  Places to go for help, both within the class and with the teacher.  Having a variety of ways to interact with the content.  Having a variety of ways to interact with each other. 

The most successful online experiences mimic successful real-life experiences.

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