Sunday, March 1, 2009

So You Want to Teach Online

What steps should you take to change face-2-face
course content to online content?

First you will need to know what course management system (CMS) your school system is using. Is your school system using Moodle, Blackboard or WebCT? Take time to learn the features of the CMS, the interactive components, the gradebook and decide what features would work best for your course content. If there are features missing that you would like to use, then look for free Web 2.0 tools such as Flickr, Google Blogger, Webpaint, VoiceThread or other free online tools.

The modules of the CMS form the navigational structure of the course so make sure to know the layout of the CMS your school system will be using. Now begin to organize your course content into the modules. To make this easy use a concept mapping tool such as Inspiration, Microsoft Word or just map out the course with pencil and paper. Make sure each module of the online course focuses on the goals and objectives of the curriculum. There are three areas the course should be organized around – course materials, discussions and assignments/activities. Make sure to include completion times for each course task to help students plan time to complete all work.

Let’s look at each area:
Course Materials. Course materials can be web sites, video clips, PowerPoint presentations, podcasts, online articles or lecture notes. Remember to find ways to differentiate the instruction to meet the needs of all students.

Discussions. A discussion board is one of the primary tools for connecting with the students to see how well they understand key concepts of the course. Make sure discussion questions require students to engage in higher-order thinking. Also, think of ways to use the discussion board to motivate the class and remember that teachable moments will occur in the discussion board. Use a detailed scoring rubric for the discussion board so students know the expectations required for postings.

Assignments/Activities. Think about listing all assignments, due dates and scoring rubrics in a downloadable document to help students stay organized and to make sure they understand expectations. Make sure students know the file formats accepted for posting assignments. Instructors should not have to spend a lot of time trying to open student assignments from various software applications. Think about using a Frequently Asked Questions forum where students can ask questions about the course and assignments.

Once the content modules are created and organized, decide how many modules to make available to students at a time. Post modules weekly to prevent students from jumping ahead while allowing students time to post missed assignments from the past weeks. It’s also helpful to make sure students have a complete understanding of the past modules before working on future modules.

Whether posting complete courses or supplemental materials online for a face-2-face course, instructors will need to know the technology skills of the students. Instructors can prepare a student information sheet listing the necessary technology skills for the students. Make sure to outline all course expectations for the students letting them know that online courses usually need more time than face-2-face courses. Even though online courses are accessible 24 hours a day, students need to know they should expect responses to assignments and other postings within a time period set by the instructor.

If your school system offers online courses and/or online supplemental materials it would be helpful for students to complete an orientation to familiarize them with the online course software and the navigational structure of online courses. As students work through the online materials always look for ways to improve the course, making note of what worked well and what changes are needed. At the end of the online course provide students with a course evaluation to help decide if the online course met the objectives for the course.

Once an instructor decides to remake a face-2-face course to an online course there are many helpful resources. Here are just a few resources.