1. Identify your Strengths/Weaknesses.
2. Brainstorm with Current Faculty Teaching Online.
3. Identify Technology to Enhance Your Teaching Style.
4. Organize the Content.
5. Test the Structure of the Course.
6. Set the Tone with the Syllabus.
7. Create a Learning Objects Database.
Putting a class online may not be as simple as you think. Planning before doing is a key component. Making sure what you have previously done in a traditional course can work in an online course is a huge factor. You must also find technology that supports your teaching style. These seven steps will help you create your online course.
It is important to know what your strengths and weaknesses are as a facilitator of knowledge. There are free online inventories to help you determine these factors. If your strengths lie in the areas of communication and organization, you can feel certain that your online content will be organized and you will communicate important information to students. However, if these areas are your weaknesses, you know you need to motivate yourself to be more organized and communicate more with students as these are key components to online learning.
Don’t reinvent the wheel! Talk with other faculty to see what works for them as they are teaching online. Keep in mind that what works for them may not work for you exactly, but advice from experienced online educators can alleviate stress as you begin to work with new technologies and online students. Ask questions such as: How do you build community online? How do you organize the course content? What is the best way to communicate with students? How is your syllabus different for an online course as opposed to a traditional course?
You will obviously have to use technology to teach online. What technology you use may depend on what is available to you and also what you feel comfortable using. Blackboard is one technology that will allow you to host the course information, discussion board, assignments, etc. Keeping everything in one place makes access easy for the students and you. The main thing to keep in mind is to use technology that enhances your teaching style and helps you to effectively teach the lesson. Do not initially overextend yourself by trying to use too much or too high of a level of technology. Use the lowest common denominator so your students and you both feel comfortable with the technology and it does not become a barrier.
The organization of the course content is essential to allow students to find pertinent information quickly and allow you to update information on a timely basis. The layout of your online course should be user friendly to minimize questions or delay learning. Links to course content should be labeled appropriately. Good examples include: Course Documents, Communication, Discussion Board. Proper labeling and layout eases the transition to an e-learning environment. You may also want to front load everything a week in advance and encourage students to review the information and ask questions early. This will diminish the number of questions later.
Once you have the content organized and posted online, it is essential to test the structure of the course. Make sure all links work properly and course content is loaded in specific areas. If links do not work or content cannot be found, students become frustrated. It is best to test that everything is in working condition prior to the beginning of the class.
Set the tone for the course with a carefully developed syllabus. Be kind and caring, but firm in deadlines, etc. Communicate everything to students up front through specific language in the syllabus. Set the rules in the syllabus. Such rules include: "Email and Blackboard will be checked regularly during office hours." "I do not regularly check email and Blackboard on Saturdays and Sundays." "Instant messaging language is not appropriate for discussion board class discussions." You may also want to post a stimulating question on the discussion board or create a simple home page that gives students insight into the course.
A learning objects (LO) database is developed to store files, graphics, audio, video, or any necessary course component that may be used more than once in a course or in a variety of courses. Keeping a LO database saves you time because you can quickly find, sort, locate, and upload desired components. Learning objects may vary size, scope, and level of complexity and interaction. It is also important to understand that learning objects are not tied to particular course data, but to subject matter. Re-using objects within your courses is a reason enough to begin to develop your own learning objects database. Learning objects may be simple stand-alone flash objects or, at higher level, interactive components built into a learning management system.
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