online teaching and learning

Supporting Excellence in Online Teaching and Learning

How can institutions support excellence in online education? The question is one of paramount importance to all institutions with online course offerings, but it may be a particular challenge to residential, research universities, which are not necessarily designed with online education in mind. But Julie Schell, EdD, Director of OnRamps and Strategic Initiatives at the University of Texas at Austin, is meeting that challenge. She is passionate about the way that course design can be used to foster excellence in online teaching and learning.

First, she explains that it is important that institutions not “use technology to take old methods and [scale them up].” For example, she notes that many online courses such as MOOCs may take pedagogical methods that work in the face-to-face classroom and uses technology to scale it up to reach a (sometimes much) larger audience. “That’s not supported by research,” Schell says.

Instead, she urges departments, faculty, and instructional designers to “think about who is the user and what…they need.”

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Legal Issues in Course Design and Delivery

In this article, we look at some practical ways for how to lawfully utilize the common types of materials used in course design and delivery. But first I must begin with the requisite disclaimer. The information contained herein is for educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for legal advice nor is it to be construed as the rendering of a legal opinion.

Who owns your course?
One way to think about course design and delivery is to break it down into its component parts. What is the body of knowledge or course content? What kinds of resources, books, articles, media, et cetera do you want to use? How do you utilize them in a manner that is copyright compliant?

Typically, the compilation of resources utilized in any given course is drawn from a variety of sources. We will look at those most commonly employed. We will do that by examining three common scenarios involving materials you create yourself and what happens to them if you leave your institution.

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Three Simple Ways to Energize Online Discussions

Online course discussions are routine in online and blended classes, and they are gaining popularity in face-to-face courses as well. Proponents of online discussions tout that their use can help with community- and relationship-building, can push students to go deeper with course content and demonstrate critical thinking, and can allow students to share their knowledge and previous experience with course-related concepts and ideas.

Although the use of online discussions is becoming more common, I frequently hear faculty express concerns and challenges they have with them: the time it takes to read and grade each post, keeping students interested and engaged with the forums, and wrestling with how much they as instructors should be participating.

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Top Online Course Design Mistakes

Although online education has been around for nearly 20 years, I still see a number of common mistakes among online course developers. Here are the top course design mistakes in online education and how to avoid them in your courses.

Too much content
When I hire someone to design an online course, I invariably get too much content. Developers will assign over 150 pages of dense, academic reading per week, along with websites and other resources. Covering all of this content would take far more time than can be expected of students, leading them to pick and choose what they think is important, not what the course developer thinks is important.

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Three Common Mistakes to Avoid When Teaching Online

Hundreds of studies have demonstrated that there is no significant difference in learning outcomes between online and face-to-face courses. But many students still report having a bad experience with online education because their instructor makes some easily identified mistake when moving courses online.

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Tweeting as an Alternative to Discussion Forums

There has recently been quite a bit of discussion on ways to use Twitter in education. But commentators have said little about whether Twitter offers advantages over traditional LMS discussion forums. Should the online instructor use Twitter instead of the tried and true LMS?

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Using Online Protocols for Discussions

After teaching online for a number of years, I grew weary of the normal “make an initial post, then respond to two others” discussions. Was there another way to engage students? How could I make discussions more meaningful and in-depth? Were there ways to ensure that all students had a voice in a conversation?

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Expand Classroom Walls through International Course Collaborations

With globalization impacting almost every field, internationalization of the curriculum has become a goal shared by many colleges and universities. Many institutions look to study abroad programs to increase students’ awareness of and sensitivity to international issues and their understanding of different cultures and points of view. However, only a small percentage of students participate in study abroad programs, and many groups are underrepresented. A Globally Networked Learning Experience (GNLE) connects students in different countries using tools you already have and with which you are familiar, like your learning platform, blogs, and video meeting tools, with the goal of developing cross-cultural competencies and enabling all students to have a meaningful international learning experience. A GNLE can be as simple as a short-term shared discussion (minimum of two to three weeks) or as complex as a term-long, co-taught course. Here we provide the basic steps for planning and designing a GNLE.

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Understanding Resistance to Online Learning

I've been involved in online learning for 10 years and I've seen massive changes, both in the technology as well as in the way people react to the idea of online learning. Even as it gains massive popularity, online learning is still not necessarily mainstream. There can be resistance toward online learning, but my research points toward misunderstanding what it means to teach in the online classroom as the main culprit behind this resistance.

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