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Important Tips for Developing a Quality Online Course


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Important Tips for Developing a Quality Online Course

  1. 1. Developing a Quality Online Course<br />Michael J. Robertson, Ph.D.<br />eLearning Department<br />August 2011<br />
  2. 2. Quality Online Courses<br />Characteristics<br />Provide scaffolding for multiple styles<br />Promote higher level thinking<br />Emphasize individual and social learning<br />Incorporate diverse media formats<br />Reflect both richness and simplicity in organization and presentation<br />Model instructor expectations for student work<br />Place a high level of worth in student-instructor and student-student interaction<br />
  3. 3. Overview<br />Pedagogy<br />Technology<br />Course Development<br />
  4. 4. Pedagogy<br />Cognitive, behavioral, and social learning must all be acknowledged<br />Encourage student reflection by way of independent and group-oriented writing activities<br />Enable social interaction through synchronous - e.g., real-time interview with external content matter expert - and asynchronous - e.g., discussion postings about case studies - activities<br />Avoid information overload by presenting learning content via concise modules that build upon one another.<br />7 (+/- 2) chunks of information (Miller, 1956)<br />Online learning is by its very nature active, that is, it requires the learner take responsibility for his or her learning<br />Assign experiential learning activities, such as field observations and journals for meta-cognitive reflection<br />Identify and cultivate real-life context by way of student-instructor and student-student interaction<br />Where do student interests intersect with the course content?<br />Identify possible areas for inference, synthesis, and transference<br />Extensive research reveals that student-instructor interaction is a major factor influencing student satisfaction with online courses<br />Regardless of the technical or presentation-related course aspects, if consistent, meaningful, and timely instructor feedback is not present, students rate the learning experience low<br />Rapport building is an important component to meaningful student-instructor discourse<br />Frequent real-time dialogue, early in the semester, is more likely to generate meaningful rapport and ultimately student satisfaction with the course (Jones, Warren, and Robertson, 2009)<br />
  5. 5. Pedagogy<br />Be consistent in course design, including the following aspects (Shapiro, 2011):<br />Ease of navigation<br />The furthest any learning content should be is no more than three (3) mouse clicks from the course homepage<br />Course elements are consistent and clearly marked, e.g., fonts and font colors<br />Highlighting text with background colors can be distracting as well as a potential accessibility issue<br />Put simply, different font types on the same page and/or across a course look unprofessional and suggest to students that attention to detail is low priority<br />Model the correct behavior - e.g., respectful online dialogue - and expected outcomes - e.g., quality of work submitted - at every level of the course<br />Course elements are easy to follow<br />Be deliberate and straightforward with icon selection, i.e., use a folder icon for a folder, and not, for example, a smiley face<br />Content titles are clear, e.g., Module 1: Quiz 2<br />Chapter 1 is not sufficiently descriptive, i.e., Chapter 1 what, assignments, quizzes, lectures?<br />Design elements, like color and images, do not distract from course content<br />The focal point for each page should be the information conveyed, and NOT supporting materials like inspirational images or other items that redirect student attention<br />Due dates are clearly listed, if possible, in multiple locations<br />Repetition of such information saves both the student and instructor frustration in the long run<br />
  6. 6. Technology<br />ANGEL, i.e., A New Global Environment for Learning, is the Learning Management System (LMS) used at NCTC<br />NCTC currently deploys the most up-to-date system version, ANGEL 7.4<br />The eLearning Department provides faculty the following Web-based technical resources:<br />ANGEL Support<br />ANGEL Faculty Tutorials<br />ANGEL Faculty Video Tutorials<br />ANGEL Faculty QuickStart Guide<br />ANGEL Faculty Reference Guide<br />ANGEL 7.4: Instructor Fundamentals<br />Faculty also have access to this training series under their Courses nugget in ANGEL<br />Using streaming audiovideo and interactive learning objects, this training series provides step-by-step instruction on how to complete a wide variety of instructor-related ANGEL tasks<br />
  7. 7. Technology<br />The eLearning Department provides faculty the following… resources (cont.):<br />Virtual Training Company (VTC)<br />NCTC faculty have access to online software training through VTC Online University<br />Training titles include Microsoft Office, Adobe Flash CS5, Apple Final Cut, Apple QuickTime Pro and many more!<br />For additional information or to setup VTC access, contact Michael Robertson<br />New NCTC online faculty must complete a training series to be certified to teach online<br />Course development cannot begin until the certification process is successfully completed<br />Technology can be a wonderful tool to support meaningful learning; however, it can also, when applied incorrectly or excessively, impede or confuse student learning<br />Are simpler tools available that would satisfy student technology expectations?<br />If students do not perceive it to be useful it may very well impede learning!<br />Deploy the appropriate tool for the activity, do not design an activity after selecting the tool<br />Power Point presentations are a common delivery method for online instructors; however, without a speaker they are often too vague for meaningful student learning<br />Use various multimedia tools, like the narration feature in Microsoft Office 2010, to provide that needed layer of personalization to Power Point presentations<br />Creating Flash-based interactions that incorporate Power Point presentations, or adding pop quizzes to streaming video clips are all possible!<br />Contact the eLearning Department for more information on these and other content development possibilities<br />
  8. 8. Course Development<br />The course development process spans 12 to 18 months<br />Target completion of the initial course version for the end of the first six to nine months, allowing the second half of the process to focus on review and revision<br />Simply migrating content online that is used to support face-to-face instruction, such as Power Point presentations and reading assignments, DOES NOT alone make a quality online course<br />A midpoint progress evaluation will be performed. If a course is not to the appropriate development stage, it will be canceled or put on hold for a future semester<br />Any course not developed and meeting final approval by the first day of early registration for the appropriate semester will be dropped from the schedule<br />All new online courses must successfully complete the peer review process before launch<br />The peer review process is necessary to ensure that NCTC students are offered only high quality online courses<br />The peer review process usually takes 2-3 months to complete<br />Meet regularly, at least once a month, with your assigned instructional designer<br />He or she is responsible for supporting you throughout the course development process, including pedagogical, technical, and logistical assistance<br />eLearning staff recognize that faculty perceptions of the development experience influence subsequent participation and advocacy for online learning at NCTC<br />Why is it bad practice to procrastinate on a course development project?<br />The course may be canceled or put on hold if appropriate progress is not evident<br />Produces back log in peer review process placing additional burden on other faculty and staff<br />May leave development work to complete after semester startup, thus drawing instructor attention away from student learning<br />Visible errors model student expectations of quality, e.g., Student asks, "Why did you take points off my paper for misspelling words when there are misspelled words in our Syllabus?"<br />High quality courses offer a higher earning potential for the instructor and institution<br />
  9. 9. Resources<br />Deubel, P. (2003). Learning from reflections - Issues in building quality online courses.Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 6(3). Retrieved February 14, 2011, from<br />Friedman, V. (2008). Applying divine proportion to your Web designs. Smashing Magazine. Retrieved February 14, 2011, from<br />Jones, J. G., Warren, S. J., & Robertson, M. (2009). Increasing student discourse to support rapport building in web and blended courses using a 3D Online Learning Environment. Journal of Interactive Learning Research, 20(3), 269-294.<br />Miller, G. A. (1956). The magical number seven, plus or minus two: Some limits on our capacity for processing information. Psychological Review, 63(2), 343–355.<br />Shaprio, A. (2011). Focus on instructional design: What elements to include in a quality online course [Webinar]. Retrieved January 25, 2011, from<br />Swineburne University of Technology. (na). Swineburne multimedia design tutorials: Basic design principles. Retrieved February 14, 2011, from<br />Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. (2011). Professional development modules. Retrieved February 15, 2011, from<br />
  10. 10. Questions, Comments<br /><br />