Closure, outcome, achievement. Ending, end of the road, conclusion. Full stop, period, finish. Which word would you choose to describe the end of your online courses? How do you handle that final stage? Do you simply send a goodbye email and unenrol everybody from the course? Do you give grades and feedback on a final exam/test/piece of project work, and then close the course down?
How you finish an online course is just as important as how you start an online course. (See my previous posts about online course beginnings, and middles). If your online group has gelled, and participants have been working well together over the period of time online, finishing a course can make them feel bereft. Here are some comments that we typically get from participants at the end of their online courses:
- I’m going to miss you all so much!
- I can’t imagine not logging in every day and reading or hearing you all — what am I going to do with my free time?
- I feel like I’m addicted to our course Moodle now. How will I survive when it’s closed???
- I feel sad now that it’s all over.
It is important online (just as it is face-to-face) to provide a space for participants to informally share lessons learned, and to say goodbye to the group. Below are two short activities for group closure online, that we have found work especially well.
Activity 1: Parting gifts*
In this activity, participants and tutor give the group a farewell or parting gift each. The idea is simple, but very effective. In your task instructions, you need to point out that gift can be almost anything. Here is a selection of gifts that have given by participants on our past courses:
- a joke, an anecdote, a poem
- a piece of music (often this is music produced by the participant him or herself, or by a spouse)
- a significant photo, or a drawing
- an unusual or amusing video, either home-made or from YouTube (here is one gift YouTube video from a participant that I particularly liked)
- an unusual website
- an audio or video farewell message to the group (here is a lovely one produced in VoiceThread by a participant in Australia)
- a favourite dish, including a recipe and photo
*Thanks to team member Ana d’Almeida for this great idea, which she adapted from a f2f training course.
Activity 2 : The most important thing I’ve learned…
In this activity, participants need to identify the ONE most important thing that they have learned during their online course. This is actually quite difficult, as they will hopefully have learned many things! But participants need to choose one thing – the thing they consider to be the most important. Interestingly, participants don’t always focus on actual course content as the most important thing that they have learned. You will also get a range of comments on process or on affective factors. Rather than doing this activity on a forum, try it out with an online notice board or poster tool, such as Glogster or Wallwisher. It’s easier to read all the contributions at once, it looks great, and it keeps contributions short. Here is an example from one of our online courses (using Wallwisher):
These are just two very short activities you can integrate into the final phase of your online course. You will also want to solicit more formal course feedback, and you may even want to set up an online community from your past participants. We have just set up a new e-community for our past participants, and I will be posting soon about lessons learned to date… 🙂
Meanwhile, if you have any activities that you use to round off your online courses, please feel free to share them in the comments section!