Have you ever used agreements at the start of an online course? Elearning agreements are an individual communication tool between the student and the teacher to help acknowledge what kind of commitment, tools and outcome will be expected and achieved throughout the course. This helps students commit to the elearning course and can also be used as formative assessment.
How does an elearning agreement work?
At the start of a course, whether it is online, blended or face to face, ask the students to ‘agree’ to commit to the course with various agenda personalised to themselves, and to basically, put in their best effort. This elearning agreement doesn’t have to be stipulated by the teacher, it is important the the student creates and decides on the agreement themselves.
Trainers can ask (or ‘suggest’) the students what they plan to get from the course, their weekly commitments, comfortable place to study, if they have a particular study schedule, when they might be doing assignments or replying on forums etc. However, it is important that the student makes the agreement themselves. There might be other things that the student sees as important.
Elearning agreements don’t have to be just about commitment and wanting to finish and do well. Include the benefits that the learner is going to get from the course. Think of sentences along the lines of “this course means that I will be able to…” or, “I want to set up my own business doing …”.
Make the agreement about lifestyle, ‘this course means that I can work from home’, ‘that I can look after family and earn’, etc.
Elearning agreements could be presented through a video discussion, an activity, an image or infographic, or even a forum post. A suggestion is to ask the students to discuss what may be important for them to commit, or ‘agree’ to throughout the course. Start out by posting a question, something that will elicit a response, e.g. What would you put in your perfect, but realistic, learner agreement? I would put… that I actually finish this course and that I commit three hours a week to this course.
You could require that learners to put together their own separate agreement and upload it to you as an assessment activity. That way it is distinctly personalised and for the student to keep.
Elearning agreements as formative assessment
Elearning agreements could be a formative assessment that is used as a reflection at the end, or even part way, through the course. By coming back to their agreement, students can see how their initial commitment helped guide their study, or how they may have strayed and need to reassess their study techniques. This can be particularly powerful if a student hasn’t participated for a period of time. Trainers can point out the learner agreement and ask if the student is struggling with anything.
This idea of elearning agreements is something that is often used for classroom management, but, often this style of classroom management is missing in online courses. Try an elearning agreement, keep students engaged and focused on their achievements in the course.