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Designing for Online Learning

Quality online instruction requires effective planning and attention to detail, but the process doesn’t have to be tedious and can even enhance your face-to-face courses. These resources in this section of our website can give you insight on course design that will create the most engaging learning environment for your students.

Designing an Effective Course

After an extensive review, ODL has selected the Quality Matters Rubric Standards for Online Courses as our online course quality review tool. The above link takes you to the QM website where you can find informative links about the research behind the tool. When you begin working with your ODL instructional development consultant, you'll be provided with a detailed overview of the rubric, as well as tools and templates to help you apply it to your course.

In the meantime, you can also learn more about course planning in Chapter 1: Designing an Effective Course of Instruction at FSU: A Guide to Teaching & Learning Practices, a handbook designed to help instructional faculty and teaching assistants who desire to become more effective teachers. It offers strategies used by experienced instructors and presents instruction methods and techniques following four components of Instructional Design: Course Planning, Lesson Delivery, Student Testing and Grading, and Course Revision and Evaluation.

Mapping out a Course Development Project

Use the Course Planning Worksheet and the Timeline and Task List as planning tools as you map out these four steps for developing a quality online course:

Step 1: Determine learning objectives for each unit/topic of instruction.

What do students need to learn to be successful in the course? The more specific the objective is written, the more meaningful the content will be for students. Well written objectives guide students on how to focus their learning. Are they memorizing a theory or are they learning how to apply a theory? Many instructors who write detailed objectives for their students have found that their students use them as study guides for the course. What instructor wouldn’t appreciate having to answer fewer, “Is this going to be on the test” questions? Another benefit to instructors is that objectives help focus the delivery of content and make planning the course much easier. For ways to make your expectations clearer and more explicit - which helps students learn and makes your job easier, see our article on Creating Learning Outcomes.

Step 2: Develop Course Content.

What content will help students achieve the objectives in the most straightforward way? Planning is critical in the online environment. Content should be closely aligned with objectives and carefully edited so that students have a clear path toward learning the material. Unlike the face-to-face environment where occasional tangential discussions rarely negatively impact learning, extraneous content in the online environment bogs down students and keeps them from achieving the actual objective. Once the content is determined, instructors should consider how they want the material delivered. Online instructors have a wide array of tools at their disposal to help them develop, edit, and deliver content. No longer should a student have to suffer through an hour-long, talking-head video lecture. For assistance in content delivery, share your course map with an ODL Instructional Designer or Media Specialist and let us brainstorm with you how to best deliver your content for the greatest learning impact.

Step 3: Develop Practice/Homework Activities.

How will students engage with the material? Practice and homework activities that allow students to interact with the content, instructor, and other students are important for deep learning but are often the most overlooked in the online environment. Quality online courses build interaction into the content; otherwise, they are merely correspondence courses. Interactive activities can include surveys, self-assessment quizzes, blogs, journals, wikis, and discussion board posts, to name a few (some of these activities are built into learning management system software). Students benefit from having an opportunity to share what they are learning, and instructors benefit by being able to monitor student progress through the content and correct misconceptions and misunderstandings.

Step 4: Evaluate Learning and Determine Assessments.

How will students demonstrate what they have learned and receive feedback on how they have progressed in achieving the objectives? Instructors have numerous options for creating assessments that effectively measure student achievement of learning. Tests and quizzes can be created in Canvas, and ODL’s assessment staff can assist instructors in insuring exam security and integrity. Authentic assessments such as papers, projects, and portfolios also are viable options for measuring student learning and can be easily submitted through the course site. Online tools such as Turnitin can help instructors deter plagiarism and insure that students are submitting original work.

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  • 18-Feb-2020
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