Week 2. How do you plan an online course?

Key issues to consider when planning your online class

While the basic principles of curriculum preparation and development used in face-to-face classes are still applicable to online courses, online components add an extra layer of complexity. However, it also offers an opportunity for students to interact and learn in ways that traditional face-to-face teaching can’t offer.

How students learn in an online context is different to that of the face-to-face environment and careful consideration and planning are required to ensure a student’s online learning experience is effective, engaging and aligned with the learning outcomes for the class.

There are several issues to consider when planning your online class:

  • Focusing on pedagogy over technology.
  • Constructively aligning assessment with learning outcomes.
  • Integrating digital literacy.
  • Knowing who your learners are.
  • Presenting your content.
  • Using the resources you need

The importance of pedagogy over technology

There are many incorrect assumptions made about the benefits of using technology, which need to be considered by teachers when first planning an online course.

  • Technology will not solve existing curriculum problems without rethinking the pedagogy.
  • Existing face-to-face content and teaching strategies will usually not work equally successfully online context without adjustment or planning
  •  Online components are not more relevant to today’s students, and does not guarantee and increase student engagement.
  • Students are not always familiar with using technology in their learning process, despite many having grown up in a digital world.
  • The reasons for introducing technology into the learning environment, and the purpose that it is intended to serve, needs to be carefully considered and articulated as part of the planning of an online class.
  • Technology should not be the main focus of the process, but rather a component which enhances the learning and teaching experience, and which is carefully integrated into the curriculum planning.

Align assessment with learning outcomes

Online courses need to be ’constructively aligned’ to achieve maximum learning benefits and outcomes. Constructive alignment means that all aspects of your class – from learning outcomes, content, resources, activities and assessable projects – are all directly related to each other, and support a progressive (or scaffolded) system of learning throughout the duration of your course.

Assessment is typically a series of progressive activities that act as stepping-stones that allow students to gradually build, apply and evaluate knowledge, with each task directly relating to particular learning outcomes.

Integrating digital literacy

Integrating digital literacy is ‘the ability to use digital technology, communication tools or networks to locate, evaluate and create information and to understand and use this information in multiple formats. It includes the ability to read and interpret media, to reproduce data and images through digital manipulation, and to evaluate and apply new knowledge gained from digital environments’.

It is often assumed that since the ‘Net Generation’ of students have grown up with ready access to technology, and are familiar with social networking, that they are comfortable and proficient in using technology in their learning.

However, this is often not true for many students. While many students use social media such as Facebook, many are less familiar with the use of other Web 2.0 technologies such as Twitter, Flickr, and Blogger for example, and often have minimal experience of using these in a learning (as opposed to social) context.

It is important therefore to firstly provide adequate training for your students and for you to know how to use these technologies, and to clarify how and why they will be used in your online course.

Who are your students?

We now know quite a lot about which kinds of student best learn online, and which find it difficult or a struggle. Here are some guidelines:

  • Lifelong learners wanting further qualifications or upgrading.
    • These are often working with families and really appreciate the flexibility of studying fully online. They often already have higher education qualifications such as a first degree, and therefore have learned how to study successfully.
  • Independent learners.
    • Online learning, particularly fully online, requires good self-discipline and good generic study skills. Independent learners can be found at any age, but it is a teachable skill, and we will discuss later in this post how to use online learning to move students from being dependent learners to independent learners.
  • Full-time students needing flexibility.
    • A surprisingly large proportion of online learners are full-time, campus based students.
  • Remote and isolated students.
    •  It is the flexibility rather than the distance that matters to these learners, and really remote and isolated students may not have good study skills or broadband access.

Content or skills?

  • Differentiate between content and skills when defining the desired learning outcomes from a course.
  • Content covers facts, data, hypotheses, ideas, arguments, evidence, and description of things (for instance, showing or describing the parts of a piece of equipment and their relationship).
  • Skills describe how content will be applied and practiced.

There are now many ways to deliver content online: text, graphics, audio, video and simulations.

Chunk your content

First, break down the content that must be delivered and decide how this can best be done online. What is NOT a good way to deliver content over the Internet is through recorded lectures.

Studying online is often done in short bursts of study, and providing materials in a modular form provides greater flexibility and more manageable learning ‘chunks’ to digest.

With online presentation you can include material that is more ‘authentic’ than students would get in a classroom lecture. Thus it is important to think through the content of a course and how best it can be delivered online. In most cases, content delivery will not be a major problem. It just needs to be presented through the best media available and properly organized.

Developing skills online can be more of a challenge, particularly if it requires manipulation of equipment and a ‘feel’ for how equipment works, or similar skills that require tactile sense.

Ask: if I can move most of my teaching online, what are the unique benefits of the campus experience that I need to bring into my face-to-face teaching? Why do students have to be here in front of me, and when they are here, am I using the time to best advantage?

Resources

A good workman needs the right tools and the necessary time to do a good job. The same is true for online teaching. So let’s look at the resources you need to support a move to online learning.

  • Your time.
    • This is the most precious resource of all. Time to learn how to do online teaching is especially important. There is a steep learning curve and the first time you do it will take much longer than subsequent online courses. Instructor workload is a function of course design. Well designed online courses should require less rather than more work from an instructor.
  • The Educational Media Center instructional designers.
    • Use the Educational Media Center for faculty development and training, instructional design and web design. We are often qualified in both educational sciences and computer technology. We have unique knowledge and skills that can make your life much easier when teaching online.
  • UseLaulima
    • Laulima has enough flexibility to allow you teach in the way you would like to teach, at least at the start. Laulima will give you a structure and format to follow to get you started quickly.
  • Colleagues experienced in online teaching.
    • It really helps if you have experienced colleagues in your department who understand the subject discipline and have done some online teaching. They will perhaps even have some materials already developed, such as graphics, that they will be willing to share with you.

The extent to which you use these resources will determine how well your online course meets quality standards.

 

Week 2 Activity- Earn Your  Badge

planning badge

 Essential Question: How do you plan an online course?

  1. Login to UH Google Drive
  2. Make a copy of week 2 action plan. Click on Teaching Online Action Plan -Week 2 [insert your name here]
  3. Insert your name in the title- by clicking on the title name in the upper left corner of your document.insert name2
  4. Locate your new  Action Plan  document  in your  Google Drive account.
  5. Please complete steps below. Directions for each step are on  your worksheet.
    1. Table: A Guiding Question requires a Guiding Activity and a Resource.
    2. Reflection. How did it go this week? Please assess your learning experience.
    3. Professional Development
      Further Skills I need to develop and what I’m going to do to get those skills.
  6. By the end of Thursday, share your document  (see the directions below) to enable commenting and post it in HERE in this week’s Google+ Community.
  7. In this week’s  Google+ Community, comment on two other worksheets, by the end of Sunday. Provide further insight into to the participant’s results. Practice improving your online interaction with insightful commenting.
Week 2 Google Plus Community

 

1 Comment

  1. Tim Adams


    I hope this week I am more successful posting than the struggles I had last week.

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