The landscape: You have taught a class in-person for five years and due to a variety of reasons you have the option to teach it online … next semester. You need to quickly transition your in-person curriculum into a creative and successful online course. Here are five steps to get you there.
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Online Course Design and Preparation
“Online teaching can be a bit of a juggling act,” says Oliver Dreon, PhD, associate professor in the School of Education at Millersville University of Pennsylvania.
Instructors must be able to handle student concerns, subject material, and delivery modality to create an interesting, engaging course.
Careful preparation is essential to the success of an online course “to provide a positive experience for the students and to be able to maximize your time with students so that you’re not spending time on reworking things that weren’t clear up front,” says Ann Millacci, associate professor of education at the University of Cincinnati. In an interview with Online Classroom, she offered the following advice on preparing your course for your learners:
Whether one teaches at the university, secondary, or elementary levels, all teachers encounter combative students. Mary Bart (2012) writes, “Even if you do everything right, there will be students who push your buttons.” However, many teachers struggle with how to handle disciplinary problems with these students. The following are methods that I find effective when dealing with a challenging student either in my online university classrooms or in email interactions with traditional, ground students:
In small online courses, instructors have the luxury of participating in frequent personal interactions with students in online discussions. But doing this with more than 15 students can be difficult. Fortunately, there are ways to maintain instructor presence and participation in online discussions without becoming overwhelmed. In an interview with Online Classroom, Heidi Ash, online program director for the Department of Health Studies at Texas Woman’s University, offered the following ways to address this issue:
Traditionally, when a face-to-face student requested a sign language interpreter or other assistance, individualized accommodation arrangements were made through institutional channels.
With the advent of online courses, however, the concept of accessibility has emerged. In contrast to the reactive, customized approach of accommodation, accessibility means proactively identifying and removing as many barriers to instruction as possible—before a course is ever opened for registration.
While some argue that building in accessibility is prohibitively expensive, recent lawsuits are driving more and more institutions to view accessibility as a requirement rather than a luxury. Unfortunately, making an online course accessible is tough—unless you’re familiar with traditional print techniques.
Years of helping faculty pass to the dark side of online education have taught me a few simple rules that I brow beat (in a collegial way) into all new online teachers.
When designing an online course it’s important to carefully consider which tools align with the course’s learning objectives and the types of communication that will occur.
There are three types of communication that can occur in an online course—one to one, one to many, and many to many. In an interview with Online Classroom, Sara Ombres, faculty development instructor, and Anna Reese, production coordinator/instructional designer, both at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Worldwide Campus, talked about how they help instructors select communication tools to suit the situation.
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.
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: