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Tuesday, April 12, 2005

How to Develop an Online Course?

I was directed to a site titled "How to develop an online course" by Priya Williams through Darren Cannell's blog (see http://careo.elearning.ubc.ca/weblogs/vschools/archives/2005_04.html#011426). This is interesting, as it is a topic that I have done a bit of research on over the past six to eight months.
Williams outlines a seven lesson process that developers can follow when designing their online courses.
  1. Analysis
  2. Instructional Design
  3. Interface Design
  4. Development
  5. Online Evaluation
  6. Promotion
  7. Site Maintenance

The seven lessons read much like a web-based adaptation of many of the popular instructional design models. In fact, the text of these lesson reads like a beginner's manual for course developers from a technical standpoint, with little discussion of the pedagogy, theory or experiences of researchers, developers, or practioneers.

In my own research on this topic, I have interviewed a series of teachers, developers and administrators from a state-wide virtual high school. My initial findings have narrowed down the guidelines, or as Williams would put it, how to design an online course to seven items.

Course developers should:

  1. prior to beginning development of any of the web-based material, plan out the course with ideas for the individual lessons and specific items that they would like to include;
  2. keep the navigation simple and to a minimum, but don’t present the material the same way in every lesson;
  3. provide a summary of the content from the required readings or the synchronous lesson and include examples that are personalized to the students’ own context;
  4. ensure students are given clear instructions and model expectations of the style and level that will be required for student work;
  5. refrain from using too much text and consider the use of visuals to replace or supplement text when applicable;
  6. only use multimedia that will enhances the content and not simply because it is available; and
  7. develop their content for the average or below average student.

So, knowing that I have some researchers, some developers, and some practioneers from the field out there. What does everyone else think? Are these useful guidelines? Are there ones there that you disagree with? Are there ones that you feel should be there that are missing?

Just as a note, I hope to be interviewing students over the next two months to gain their insights and see if these initial guidelines hold true.

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Anonymous Paul said...

Interesting comments, but I have a problem with number 7. Online education should allow us to escape the tyranny of the lecture format where we always cater to students at the level you suggest. Online delivery should allow us to more easily present material to challenge students at a variety of levels.

3:35 AM  
Blogger MKB said...

Number seven was mentioned by four of the six developers and electronic teachers. Their basic argument was that if you design with the lowest ability student in mind, it is much easier to add in for the higher ability students. However, they tended to feel that it was much more difficult to design for you higher ability students add then add in for the lower ability students.

As one developer said, "The idea that the students are still students and we shouldn’t assume that they’re all self motivated and therefore using some of the traditional ways of making sure that they are doing what they’re supposed to be doing, and it’s much better to shoot, I think, for the average and below average student and, having enrichment for the brighter ones, the self-motivated ones, but making sure that the average, the below average student is, there’s a structure in place that guarantees they’re doing their f@!*&$g work."

BTW, if you are an electronic teacher or course developer in Newfoundland or Illinois and would like to become a part of this study, please e-mail me at mkb-at-uga-dot-edu.

7:37 AM  

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