Planning and Delivering your First Online College / University Course
Many faculty members stop from jumping in because of the upfront technology challenge. This might be you as well. The Good News is that you don't have to start with understanding all the technology that can be used. In fact, it is recommended that you plan the pedagogical approach first, which is what you would do anyway before planning your course for the semester. However, there are some important considerations because you have various choices -
How many live classes (also known as synchronous classes)
What material to share online and how to engage remote students
Should you record some lecture videos (use asynchronous content)
What kind of assignments to use
Should you do group activities and projects
And so on
Careful planning is one of the key aspects of success teaching online and success often depends upon taking the time to consider all of the different aspects of the online learning experience before you begin. Many of you are fantastic teachers in the classroom and our attempt is NOT to change that. Your students love your unique style of teaching. Instead, here we are sharing some of the challenges of teaching online and best practices followed by those who made the transition to have even greater impact.
A good online course should have the following for best outcomes. There should be structure and the course delivery should be predictable and visible for students to stay motivated and in control. It will also show that the faculty is in control of the entire course. This is especially important online because, unlike in a physical class, faculty cannot troubleshoot on the fly. Everything has to be planned well in advance so that students feel confident they are in good hands. In a physical classroom, it is easy to do that by being an authority figure in front of the students. However, online, without that presence, structure, planning and what you make visible becomes very important. So plan and make visible the following to your students
Clear learning outcomes
Live interactive sessions
Learning material - recorded video lectures, reading material, slide decks, documents, notes..
Quizzes / Assignments / Projects / Practice Exercises
Group activities and peer interaction
Weekly engagement plan
Now the weightage of these elements will depend on the type of course, faculty’s teaching style, student’s background / level and many other parameters. So while we cannot recommend what you do about each of them, we can give some guiding principles:
Try answering these questions:
What will students accomplish after completing this course?
What specific competencies will the student develop?
What should the curriculum look like to achieve above?
What is the duration of the course?
In order to cover the curriculum, what can be done as recorded videos and what should be done as live sessions? In general, if there is 1 way teaching, recorded lectures work best and if there is discussion, live sessions work best.
How will you test if students can apply what they have learned? - individual work or group / quiz or assessments or projects or a mix of all?
If students are remote, every week there should be something for them to do - what will those be?
What are the consequences if the students do not do their prescribed tasks? Grade deductions?
The outcome of this analysis becomes the plan for designing the course and developing learning objectives
Often, faculty have a lot of information that they would like to cover. However, trying to do that all over live classes will be very cumbersome and students will disengage. So it is recommended that a good portion of that be shared as recorded videos and reading material. Graded quizzes can then be used to ensure that students go over the material prior to coming to class. In addition, today’s technology allows faculty and staff to track if students are viewing the lecture videos. This approach is called the Flipped Classroom approach.