Distance education courses present some unique challenges for both students and instructors. One of the first challenges students experience occurs when they try to navigate through the technology environment itself. While it is true that traditional-aged students are much more technology savvy than ever before, their acumen in technology does not ensure that they will automatically understand how to navigate a technology-driven learning environment.
As students initially learn how to work in a distance education learning environment, they can become frustrated because of the time it takes to "get around." When this happens, the instructor often has to spend a great deal of time responding to a variety of trouble-shooting questions. Regardless of the distance education courseware in use or the level of sophistication with technology that a student has, problems typically surface with each new course.
As a strategy for addressing this issue proactively, the author created a solution that was specifically designed to highlight the technology skills needed throughout the course. The goal was to reduce the amount of frustration that students often felt as they learned the new technology so that they could focus more readily on course content. The solution was the development of a preliminary assignment -- an on-line Scavenger Hunt -- that prompted students to learn or review all the technology-related skills they would need in the on-line course in a fun, non-threatening and purposeful way.
The use of the Scavenger Hunt game has made the use of a web-based course management system, like Blackboard, less threatening for students and has significantly reduced the need for additional instructor time to deal with technology-related issues throughout the course.