Anatomy of an Online Course
Being a educator in the year 2013 is NOT anything like it was in 1987. Not only do we have to know our course 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. Harnessing (mastering) this instructional technology and methodology is going to make you more marketable as an educator.
There is no doubt teaching online is a challenge. You must go into it with your eyes WIDE OPEN. The first few years moving your traditional courses over to the online environment takes time and effort climbing the learning curve. There’s no getting away from this reality. The good news is…the more you teach online, the easier it gets. Once you’ve built your online courses and develop a solid grasp on how to manage and teach via the web things get progressively easier.
There really are no shortcuts at the very beginning of this process. You have to build your courses and transition yourself and your teaching methodology over to being comfortable, proficient and effective in the online environment.
Essentially you have to totally RE-THINK how you are going to teach because what works in the traditional classroom doesn’t usually work for the online environment.
Step #1 – Gather all the course content (assignments, lectures, videos, web resources, Powerpoints, etc.) you have and begin organizing it by week. If you are teaching a 16 week semester you have to take a good hard look at your syllabus and course outline and then break (pace/distribute) the assignments, projects, assessments and learning outcomes up over a span of 14 weeks. Leave the first week for course familiarization and last week for wrap-up and exam or final projects.
Step #2 – You have to become proficient with the course management system (CMS) your college is using before teaching online. That means taking workshops and taking time practicing adding content and learning the various functions and applications within the CMS (Blackboard, Moodle, WordPress, Angel, Campus Cruiser, etc.) Please note…all CMS’s do the same thing! They are online tools for delivering and assessing course content. If you can learn one CMS you can quickly learn another – it is like driving Buick vs. a Honda.
Step #3 – Once you are proficient with the tools and applications in the CMS and get all your course content loaded, organized and designed within a design scheme then you want to have someone look it over to check if the course expectations are communicated clearly. Sometime we know are material so well we just assume we are being clear when in fact we may assume too much. All course expectations, assignments, discussions and assessments must be crystal clear with no grey area.
Step #4 – Introspection, brainstorming and Soul Searching Time! You have to visualize (analyze) each assignment, assessment, project and course expectation then consider how you teach them in the classroom/studio and then problem solve just how you are going to deliver and assess them in the online environment. There is no one size fits all solution to this and your teaching style plays a role in how you go about it.