Teachers face several challenges in trying to design effective online courses. The key to developing an engaging online course is that not only it must motivate and generate interest from students but also create an interactive environment that facilitates quality learning.
For this to occur, the right tools and methods are required. More so, many traditional classroom learning elements must be integrated into online course design and deliberately fostered, such as promoting student-teacher interaction.
In creating such online courses, a number of specific instructional design tools and methods can work to facilitate the best e-learning for students.
Analyze: Establish Course Outcomes
First, you must decide where you’re going before you can even get there. Likewise, in an online course, it’s especially important that course outcomes are clearly stated in the course description. Also, active statements informing students what they will actually learn in the course.
The description should also explain to students how the knowledge or skills gained will be useful to them in the real world. Online teaching systems may even help teachers set up course learning outcomes. Including identifying course topics and key takeaways, determining sections and setting goals.
Clearly stated course outcomes inform students of their learning goals while giving teachers a framework for determining specific lessons and activities. Once teachers have established the course outcomes and goals. Designing the rest of the course with content, materials, and assessments will be much easier.
Develop: Create Course Content
Materials are vital in any course. But in online courses, materials are often the only way teachers can actively communicate with students. Unless the course is held on a platform that enables live and interactive instructor-led classes.
With online courses, it’s critical that the teacher uses interesting and varied content that addresses various student learning styles and keeps students engaged. Online courses with multimedia courseware work best. Having said that, a good online learning platform will support various file types and sizes to make that possible. Such course content in various media formats might include:
- Online or offline readings
- Written lecture notes
- Narrated slides or images
- Video clips, movies, or animation
- Audio recordings or podcasts
- Recordings of past lectures
Regardless of the teaching system and tools you use, what’s critical for successful online course design is to include multimedia content in a variety of file types. You need this in order to address different learning styles and keep students engaged with the material.
Engage: Encourage Student-teacher Interaction
Teacher-learner interaction has always been at the center of successful education — online or traditional. That said, online course designers must find ways to encourage interaction and discussion.
On the one hand, online classes like MOOCs let teachers reach a large number of students. The drawbacks, however, include a lack of live student-teacher interaction. A 2012-2013 study by MIT and Harvard found that 95 percent of students dropped their MOOCs before completion. Such numbers are startling and are significantly higher than dropout rates for traditional classes, thus suggesting the significance of classroom interaction in keeping students engaged and interested.
Student-teacher interaction in the online classroom should include asynchronous interactions like online discussion forums or chats. Understanding that synchronous dialogue doesn’t easily scale in this model. WizIQ has decided to meet these learning needs through its new Learning Marketplace. Here students can choose between video-based, self-paced courses or live interactive courses with real-time instructors. Online teaching systems with real-time audio-visual communication that enables live, instructor-led learning are ideal. They simulate the traditional classroom experience by allowing teachers to interact directly with their online students.
Even when online instructors don’t use live tools, they should still incorporate interactive learning activities and student-teacher communication into their course design. For example, they can foster interaction through:
- Online discussion forums
- Chat rooms
- Video, online chat, and phone texting
- VoIP services
- Instant messaging
Evaluate: Give Tests and Assessments
Every online course should evaluate students regularly and in a number of different ways. Tests and other assessments can be required for course completion. Or, in self-paced courses, they can serve to measure students’ understanding before they are able to move to the next section.
Online teachers can use assessments to gauge not only student performance but to evaluate their own, adjusting pedagogical methods to improve outcomes as needed. Moreover, online teachers should carefully analyze results in order to keep the students, and themselves, aware of overall progress.
Some online teaching systems offer useful testing modules to guide teachers through the process of creating tests. They do a question by question introduction and even enable teachers to produce graphic representations of results for quick and easy evaluation.
Additionally, assessments should require online students to both – recall the information they learn and apply it in contexts outside of the classroom. So it’s important to include a variety of assessments in the online course. Some summative and others formative — such as tests, quizzes, polls, surveys, essays, and discussion questions.
To sum up, online course design doesn’t have to be rocket science. Although that actually might be the case for some advanced science teachers. Still, many teachers find themselves intimidated — or even hindered — by their lack of expertise in technology or functional limitations in their online learning management system.
But, online teaching can be effective and exciting as it enables you to reach learners around the world and share your knowledge. How? By simply using the right tools, applying proven methods, and acquiring a powerful and easy-to-use teaching system to facilitate the class.