Being an educator in the year 2012 is NOT what it was in 1987. Not only do we have to know our content area and be able to teach it effectively. Now we have to be able to teach effectively in a whole new (cyber) environment and be able to weave seamlessly between physically seeing (teaching) our students and communicating (instructing) them totally online. This takes new sets of skills and a heightened awareness of the challenges the online environment presents us.
Online Class Design is really broken into two parts.
The actual design of the web pages in your online class and how they interrelate which includes the content hierarchy you have developed throughout the blackboard and the course navigation.
It also deals with the way you have developed your instructional methodology, in other words…how are you going to teach your online students your course content and how you are going to assess that your students have learned (comprehended) the material you are presenting in the online environment. These two components of course design are critical to the success of any online class and they should go hand in hand and compliment one another.
I believe the goal for online educators is to stop viewing the online teaching environment as something totally different from the traditional classroom. How can we as teachers implement strategies that enable us to weave seamlessly between the classroom and the course blackboard? We can no longer compartmentalize our various teaching environments – there must be a smooth, fluid interface between them all if we are going to blend the traditional classroom with online instructional delivery.
This can no longer be accomplished with yesterday’s teaching methods.
I think we need to be asking ourselves some basic questions as we design and create our online courses.
Are you incorporating images and graphics to illustrate and reinforce your course content? Are you linking to unique and viable web sites that relate to your course content? Have you thought of using video, audio, multi-media in your online class and above all are you proactive and creative in your teaching methods. How are you assessing that the students are learning (comprehending) your course material?
We can ALL do a better job when it comes to online teaching. We must first be willing to rethink our teaching methodology. We can’t be afraid to ask ourselves if we are teaching our course content in the most effective, engaging and creative way. There is always room for improvement – our first step is to re-evaluate how we are teaching and look at our online courses through a critical eye.
My experience has taught me that one of the primary elements for a successful online class is fluid communication between teacher and student. Students want to know their instructor is accessible, engaged and monitoring the class.
Students desire viable feedback on their discussion board posts, homework and exams. There are ways of doing this without spending exorbitant amounts of time. The Announcements page is also a great way to help keep the communication going. It’s a place to update and reinforce students to your course expectations and let them know what is going on or how they are doing as a class. It’s been said that online teaching isn’t for every faculty member and it isn’t for every student. This may be true when the faculty member or student just doesn’t know or understand how to work in an online environment. Our entire global economy and communications systems have migrated online and if our students are going to be successful in the workplace we as educators must replicate and function seamlessly in this cyber environment
First off, I believe if we are going to be successful, we must know our students and communicate to them in a very clear, concise and creative way. It’s important that we convey our course expectations for them up front. Our online students must know and truly understand exactly what is expected of them. We as online educators should also be thinking of innovative ways to communicate our course expectations over and above text based online lectures and assignments.
What does your online class look like?
Is it page after page of text? Is there any color? Creative course specific graphics, pictures, podcasts, video, external links and is it easy to navigate or busy and confusing?
Basic Web Page Design Strategies
Visual Hierarchy arranges elements to create focal points by positioning their priority within a concept as a whole. To do this you will need to ask yourself what the key elements of your design are, which graphics communicate your content most strongly?
Which graphics support your content and how could you illustrate them to create a visual structure from most to least important You may consider displaying your graphics using different sizes and colours to give them visual weight.
Visual weight refers to the relative size and scale of the various elements in a design. This gives meaning to the relationship between objects, or parts, of a whole. Scale is used to create the contrasting relationship of size between elements in a composition.
Study your design concept and take note of what attracts your eye first, where do you look next and how does your eye move around the visual elements of your design? Is a relationship implied in the ordering, grouping and placements of your graphical elements?
The more important a headline or task is, the larger its font size should be. Big bold headlines help to grab the user’s attention as they scan the Web page.
The more important the headline or content, the higher up the page it should be placed. The most important or popular content should always be positioned prominently near the top of the page, so users can view it without having to scroll too far.
* Content Relationships
Group similar content types by displaying the content in a similar visual style, or in a clearly defined area.
Direct the reader’s eye
In the West readers of English read from left to right, and from the top of the page to the bottom. This fundamental visual axis dominates most design decisions, and is the basis for most conventional graphic design of print publications. In page layout the top of the page is always the most dominant location. Subtle pastel shades of colors typically found in nature make the best choices for background or minor elements, especially if you are new to graphic design and color selection. Avoid bold, highly saturated primary colors except in regions of maximum emphasis, and even there use them cautiously. Type must always contrast sharply with any background color.
Use text elements, page elements, and the principles of elements of visual design together to create a visual hierarchy in which content works with design. A visual hierarchy signals how your information is organized and so makes scanning it and understanding it easy and accuate.
Create a Lesson or Assignment page in Assignments Manager using one or more of these design principles. Use text, one or more images that illustrate the text, color and and one external link from the web that relates and reinforces your course content. Start by creating a folder then naming the folder. Open the folder and add item and create a visually interesting, creative assignment or lesson page using some of the above principles. 20 minutes
• Structuring the Course
Organize your course into units (modules) by placing all content items with a conventional system of folders and sub folders. Folders can be used to group related material into logical sections. An organized and visually illustrated set of materials will guide students through the course and help them stay focused and on task. You can also color code folders and sub-folders to reflect certain types of content, assessments and learning activities. Click Course map top quickly see how your course is organized.
Hands -On Time
Create an assignment (Assignments Link) that is in two parts. Students must submit either an essay or some type of homework document to the assignments manager and also have them discuss a topic that relates to the homework assignment. Create a new Discussion board, add the discussion topic and illustrate the topic with a linked image that you find on google. Click modify discussion and make it a set it up as a graded discussion – add points for that weeks discussion topic. 20 minutes
How will youassessstudent learning for this module? Test, essay, discussion responses? Projects? Portfolio’s? What type of feedback will you give in the assignments manager?
Things to remember….
• Align student learning objectives, learning activities and assessments.
• Chunk or group course content within folders
• Teach for deep understanding and be an active participant in the learning process – that means engaging your students in weekly discussions.
• Incorporate examples of what you expect from your students and provide viable feedback to assignments.
• Use a variety of assessment tools – don’t rely on just one or two types of assessments.
• Write clear learning objectives for your students and make assessments directly relate to student learning.
Keys to Strengthening your Effectiveness while teaching Online
Don’t Lose the ”Integrity of Your Course”
Transport your Personality to the online environment. Do you use humor? How do your students know who YOU are as a human being?
Images help the visual learner and make the course more appealing
Pod casts and enhanced media rich formats can match with the learning styles of your students and make the course more diverse and dynamic.
Tell the learner at least four times and in multiple places in your course (Don’t assume they understand)
Use multiple Assessment strategies
Find ways for the Students to Communicate with each other
Continue your online teaching training- the more tips the better!
Networking is a must!