Monday, December 10, 2012

Elements of Online Course Design

As education develops, the use of online teaching platforms is growing, and it is possible that some of us may have opportunity to test these waters in the future, notably if you work in the area of continuing professional education. People no longer wish to travel and give up precious work time, so the use of online teaching for CE has grown. But the technology also needs to take into account the differences that exist with regard to learning online versus in a classroom or clinical setting. Here are just a few of the notable differences. This information comes from an excellent but slender book by Vai and Sosulski (1).

Absence of a physical teaching space- you are not in a classroom anymore and thus the way you interact with a student is radically altered.
Planning and creating online class content- you need to work out your course material well in advance since much of it is to be posted in some fashion (as text, or a podcast, or youtube clip,etc0>

Communicating online as opposed to in person- this is a key consideration. You no longer have the ability to immediately answer a student’s question simply because they raised their hand. Your affect is lost, students cannot see you body language or facial language, etc. Much of your communication is likely going to occur via email or from communication via posting boards.
Delayed feedback- you cannot be available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. You need to write with clarity so as to not complicate understanding, you should anticipate questions, you should clearly articulate goals and assignments, etc.

Visual design- you need to give thought about how you depict content on a webpage, you need to account for different browsers, operating systems and computers, and you need to understand the basics of web design as it relates to learning.
Flexibility- online education has elements of flexibility that classroom teaching does not, so as a result deadlines, for example, become important.

Time online- this is something people need to become accustomed to. You will spend lots of time in front of a computer.
Class participation- this is also important. Directions regarding the need to spend time online and offline should be given, as well as for how and how often to post responses to questions.

Office hours- you can use technologies such as Skype to hold actual office hours, or provide instructions online as to how you can be reached.
There are new and novel challenges to taking advantage of this medium, but it is certainly going to become more common in the future.

1.       Vai M, Sosulski K. Essentials of online course design: a standards-based approach. New York, NY; Routledge, 2011


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