Online learners are getting really ANNOYED!

Online learners are starting to walk with their feet.

The main reason is they are feeling left behind.

They’ve paid and then are left to struggle through a course on their own or amidst a sea of other learners.

Listen up …

What’s that? You have over 100 people and can’t possibly attend to them all. Tough, figure it out – you are their teacher.

SHOW UP!  and not in some prerecorded video. Geez.


Type of Format. Type of Community.

Now, I admit not all courses need lots of facilitation. Below I outline the types of courses and what they need.

Online tutorial: This type of delivery is short and sweet, and focuses on ‘how to’ do something. For instance, I learned via a cooking website how to cleverly cut a mango without mangling it death (like I usually do).

  • I don’t expect there to be a community built for this that has an exchange of ideas or a deep discussion on fruit, but it is nice to have a small comment area for feedback from viewers. Why? To improve the tutorial or to get kudos.

Online workshop: These would be intensive 4 to 7 days of engagement online that has students being very active. The topic is a bit more complex than how to cook something, and requires an investment of time and energy by the students. Lots should result from a workshop. Think hobby workshops.

  • This type of delivery most certainly needs an active online learning community with leadership provided by the instructor, time for questions and answers, ability to showcase your workshop projects, and connecting with other learners.

Online course: A fully online course usually spans 4 to 12 weeks. It is very involved and teaches many layers of knowledge and skills to a learner. With this much time, learners can expect to be exposed to a variety of topics, lessons, activities, assessments and projects. The learning outcomes (results) are significant.

  •  An online course represents a journey of discovery, development, challenges and accomplishments. Support is needed to help with that journey and an online community that is facilitated by the instructor, teaching assistants and peers is a must. As students move through each stage of their learning, as mentioned above, they are going to need different types of support, communications and connections within and outside the course.

Online program: A program can be a series of courses or a course with multi-layers, intensive interactions (i.e. retreats, community work, etc.), and time for development. It is more comprehensive than a course and has many goals.

  • Online programs require different types of online support by people. There is the community of fellow learners to help each other or buddy up with; intensive discussions to move deeper into topics/concepts; administration support due to increased number of learning materials; and occasional one-on-one consulting with the instructor.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs): This type of delivery is free (i.e. open) and sees enrollment of hundreds or thousands of students – they are becoming popular with mainstream universities. Because of the online access, those in developing worlds are flocking to these courses. Pre-recorded videos or audios are provided, along with content in text, graphical or slide format. The courses vary in length.

  • Managing a high number of students is extremely difficult – clever management is required. I have taken 4 MOOCs and it was complete mayhem. Students are encouraged to find their own avenues of connecting with others (i.e. Google groups, Facebook, etc.) and for expressing themselves (i.e. tweets, blog posts, blog comments, etc). The courses don’t really manage the online community (or not well) so people are swamped with options, and basically drown in the course.

How to determine the best type of learning community?

Think what a tutorial, workshop, course or program would look like in terms of support, communications, and learning community if delivered in person.

Then, try to replicate that online – it will look different but the same interaction, connection and support need to be there.

I talk more about learning communities in this post.



As I stated, learners will become increasingly frustrated with online learning if they feel lost, isolated or frustrated. These are common feelings of e-learners.

I know, I have been teaching online for years and I’ve heard all the complaints. So, take care of your learners – it will go far in them succeeding and coming back to you for more. Promise.

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