online course design
The same principles that make learning more accessible for students with disabilities can benefit all online students. Discover how UDL/I principles can boost retention and increase student engagement for your entire class. During this seminar, Thomas Tobin, PhD, coordinator of Learning Technologies at the Center for Teaching and Learning of Northeastern Illinois University, will provide a road map to help you integrate UDL/I principles into both new and existing courses.
Online Seminar • Thursday, February 6th, 2014 • 1:00 pm Central
When looking to improve your online course, you may be tempted to do a complete redesign—start over and change nearly everything. Before you do that, consider an incremental approach that uses action research to continuously improve your course. This will enable you to make progress without discarding effective course elements or taking on the inordinate amount of work involved in a redesign.
Nate Cottle, professor of human environmental sciences at the University of Central Oklahoma, uses the process approach to learning as delineated by William Horton (2006) in his online and blended courses. Cottle spoke to Online Classroom about using this model. “Learning isn’t something that has to be confined to the classroom, and so as I teach blended classes, I think the more I can involve the students in learning and the more contexts I can involve them in, the more they’re going to learn,” he said. “The idea is to get them to slowly digest the information in different ways and to engage in different activities so that by the time the course comes to an end, they can apply the knowledge they have learned. That’s the ultimate goal: to get them to be in a state where they can apply the knowledge.”
Taking an online course can be an isolating experience, but it doesn’t have to be. There are several key techniques you can employ to humanize your online courses and thus improve the learning experience as well as success and retention rates.
Student retention is an ongoing challenge to online educators. While there is great variation in retention rates across programs and institutions, online retention rates tend to be significantly lower than those in the face-to-face environment. However, not all online educators struggle with student retention. Kari Frisch, a communications professor at Central Lakes College, has consistent retention rates of around 95 percent in her online courses, which include interpersonal communication, intercultural communication, mass communication, and online social networking. In an interview with Online Classroom, Frisch talked about the factors that she believes help her achieve such high retention rates.
As an instructional designer and online instructor at the Community College of Baltimore County Catonsville, Dionne Thorne has worked with many instructors as they develop their online courses. Based on this experience, she offers the following advice on the course design process:
I began my teaching career as a resident (classroom) instructor teaching Army officers about leadership. My teaching techniques are based on Kolb’s Experiential Learning Model (ELM) that involves the following steps: (1) Concrete Experience, (2) Publish and Process, (3) Generalize New Information, (4) Apply, and (5) Develop. ELM, which has worked very well for me in the classroom, directly emphasizes that adults learn when they:
- Discover for themselves
- Take responsibility for their learning
- Have a venue to receive experience and feedback
- Understand why the lesson is beneficial to their personal and/or professional lives.
The design of your course pages can have a significant effect on the learning experience in your online course. Good design can draw students in, help them comprehend the information the first time they read it, and enable them to easily retrieve information, says Sheree Webb, an instructional designer at Tyler Junior College.
It’s always important to help students be successful, but with returning adults, success often seems more elusive for a variety of reasons. They often have a hard time fitting schooling in with other life demands (including family obligations and work). In addition, many adult students are worried about their abilities as students and about learning in an online environment.
Many of the learners in today’s online courses are adults who are returning to school to upgrade their qualifications. It’s worth considering what kinds of adult students are in your courses and what their needs are.