January 20, 2014

Tweaking an Online Course

I’m tweaking the online course I’ll be teaching in March and April. (Courses can always be improved!) The student evaluations from the last time I taught this course will provide some suggestions. So will my own reflections about the class. But, I want to reach out a bit for ideas that neither my former students nor I may have considered. I have been curating ideas about blended and online courses at Scoop.it! (http://www.scoop.it/t/blended-learning-and-online-learning). This evening I reviewed some ideas from three of the articles that I posted at Scoop.it!

Planning Your Online Course / Giulia Forsythe / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

10 Tips for Effective eLearning (http://www.edudemic.com/elearning-tips/)
by Katie Lepi (http://www.edudemic.com/author/katie/)
at Edudemic (http://www.edudemic.com/)
  1. Katie Lepi recommends that the course have a great beginning. I will review my class’s beginning. Does it hook the students? Will they be interested?
  2. State the objectives. I think that should probably be more than just providing a syllabus for the students!
  3. Address learning styles. I do that in my face-to-face classes. I need to remember to do it in online classes, too.
  4. Be sure the students can find their way around the course. Provide good instructions for them. Of course I think my instructions are clear… but I will read them again to be sure that the students will agree.
  5. Use a conversational style. That one’s easy!
  6. Assessments should be relevant rather than just academic. I think they are; but, I do need to be sure I get that message across to the students.
  7. Format the content so that the message is clear.
  8. Approximately every third page should be interactive rather than every page. That’s interesting… and surprising.
  9. The class learning process should flow as it does in a face-to-face classroom. I think it does, but I will examine the course again to check.
  10. “Organize related content together on one screen, keeping the learner’s attention focused on one topic at a time.” That’s certainly logical. I will examine the course to determine if I have done that.
Lepi has certainly listed some good ideas to help the class learn well. I will examine the course with these ideas in mind this week.

5 Best Practices in Online Learning (http://www.eschoolnews.com/2014/01/10/practices-online-learning-407/?)
by Meris Stansbury (http://www.eschoolnews.com/author/mstansbury/)
at eSchool News (http://www.eschoolnews.com/)
  1. Provide “immediate and specific feedback” to the students
  2. Be sure there is support for struggling students
  3. Instructors should be trained to teach online… and should keep learning
  4. The curriculum should be engaging with content delivered in a variety of ways
  5. Provide the students with training to take an online course
Stansbury is describing a district’s responsibilities here. However, as an instructor, I can include these ideas in my implementation of the course.

Make 2014 Your Year: 24 Stats & Tips to Boost Your eLearning Strategy (http://info.shiftelearning.com/blog/bid/330033/Make-2014-Your-Year-24-Stats-Tips-to-Boost-Your-eLearning-Strategy)
by Karla Gutierrex (http://info.shiftelearning.com/blog/?Author=Karla+Gutierrez)
at SHIFT’s eLearning Blog (http://shiftelearning.com/)
  • Many factors play a role in the success of an online course
          a. the background and experiences the students bring
          b. the graphics, fonts, and words you use to create the course
          c. what the instructor expects from the students
  • Tell stories that pull in the students
  • Emphasize activity
  • Content chunks should last about 7-10 minutes
  • Focus on the students’ needs and interests, not yours
  • Use relevant graphics, not filler images
  • Be sure students understand that practice does makes perfect
  • Use good design to help students learn, not to distract them
  • Help the students understand how the course will facilitate their solving of problems
  • The course should be easy for students to navigate
  • Make the content something that students will want to remember
“According to Chip and Dan Heath, authors of the book Made to Stick, for content to stick, it has to make people: Pay attention (to something unexpected), understand and remember it (because it’s concrete), believe in it (because it’s a credible idea), truly care about it (or make an emotional connection with it) and be able to act on it (by telling it as a story.)”
  • Make the content easy to read
          a. highlight keywords
          b. use headings
          c. write concisely
          d. use lists and bullets
  • Design for usefulness, usability, and desirability
  • Simplicity in design makes a course easier to navigate and faster to load
  • Keep the students’ attention with humor and visual aids
  • Design courses that allow the students to explore and try ideas
  • Color affects our reactions and our learning… use color
  • Allow the students to work through the course without your directing every step
  • Write conversationally
  • Use an attractive design
  • Connect with the students’ emotions
  • Provide small chunks of learning content rather than large containers of information
  • Keep the course student-centered
  • Design to motivate the students I will review my course with these ideas in mind. I already do some of these, but I’m sure that an additional look will reveal some areas that should be re-worked.

I’m going to be busy!

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