5 Ways to Improve an Online Course

Well, this has been a depressing start to my blogging credits!  I'm almost 1/2 way through spring semester and have been so darn busy with classes that I've not had any time to blog.  Let me tell you why...

I'm taking the hardest class EVER! What is it, you ask?  Oh, let me tell you my sweet friend....it's a materials class for adolescent lit.  Sounds fun, right?  Lots of YA books, good reading, great discussions...nope.  Try this one - lots of readings, very few discussions and a wicked ton of papers/projects and presentations. I'm about to go postal.

In all fairness, this course is being taught online for the first time this semester.  The professor is doing the best in a very difficult situation.  I've decided to write a top 5 list of things to do that might help improve the online class experience.  Here goes....

  1. Plan, plan, plan...Everyone thinks they can take their face-to-face (f2f) content and slap it up on Blackboard or whatever LMS they are using and voila - instant course!  Uh huh...doesn't work this way.  The best way to transition a traditional course to online is to work with an instructional designer who knows how to work through this process.  If that isn't in the funds, get online and look at some resources.  There are lots of good ones out there to help faculty new to online teaching.
  2. Be ready to roll...this means, get all of your semester's worth of prerecorded lectures, readings, assignments, etc. online.  There are features within most LMS's that allow a faculty member to choose when they want students to see materials.  But having them already online will save time and hassles later.  It will keep students from being frustrated because class started a week ago and they still don't have the syllabus or they are still waiting for a recorded lecture that has important assignment information in it due this week.
  3. Sync up the work...for example, if there are 3 assigned readings for the week, write meaningful discussion board questions from the readings for students to discuss.  Readings being articles, books, chapters, etc. - it doesn't matter, but allow students the opportunity to be able to tell you what they've read.
  4. Lecture on time...this seems to be a big problem this semester.  Lecture time needs to be established upon enrollment.  In other words, if a faculty member plans on doing a live lecture via some collaboration tool every Thursday, they need to have that weekday associated with the course at registration.  This is a back end issue, probably dealt with in collaboration with the registrars office and the faculty member but one that needs to be addressed.
  5. Ask for feedback...take time to ask students how things are going.  Some professors normally do a +/delta at the end of every class meeting.  This will help turn any problem areas around quickly and get everyone moving in a positive direction.  Allow students to contact you offline as some students may not feel comfortable sharing problems/concerns in a group setting.
That's my 2 cents...Back to the salt mines...cheers,