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Best Practices | The Online Course Cycle - Before, During & After

Before: Preparing, Planning and Designing Your Online Course

  1. Participate in professional development: UNF faculty who wish to teach online should take advantage of the Teaching Online Faculty Development Model offered by CIRT. This professional development model consists of courses on best practices for online tool use (TOL4100), best practices for online course delivery (TOL5100), and best practices for online course development and delivery (TOL6100). All faculty participating in the Teaching Online Faculty Development Model will take the course on best practices for online tool use (TOL4100). Faculty who will deliver an existing online course will benefit from the TOL5100 course and faculty who need to both develop and deliver an online course will benefit from the TOL6100 course.
  2. Reflect on the transition from face-to-face to online:Discussion Board Before beginning the delivery of an online course, faculty should spend some time reflecting on their transition from face-to-face (F2F) to online instruction. The fundamental elements of both online and F2F courses are the same: learning objectives, learning activities, and assessment activities. However, the techniques you use to deliver your course will be very different in the online environment than in the F2F environment. The social interactions and community building must be much more purposeful in an online course than in a F2F course; social interactions will not automatically occur and must be planned in advance utilizing tools such as the Discussion Board, Groups, Collaborate, and Chat. In addition, instructor presence in an online course takes more effort than presence in a F2F course. Students will only know that you are present if you interact with them by posting Announcements, providing timely feedback on assignments and assessments, and responding to their posts in the Discussion Board.
  3. Course development and consultations: As you are developing your online courses, remember that the Instructional Design Team is available for consultations with UNF faculty. It is important to note that before an online course begins, all course content and activities should be fully developed. It is not realistic to expect to be able to “work ahead” of your students to develop course content and activities as you proceed through the semester. Instead, faculty should focus on interacting with students, providing meaningful feedback to students on assignments and assessments and gathering feedback on the course experience from students during course delivery.

During: Course Delivery

  1. Course delivery: As you are facilitating your online course, it is important to consistently monitor your students’ participation in the learning activities to be proactive in identifying any students’ difficulties with the activities or their loss of engagement. For example, if the students’ participation in a group discussion isn’t meeting your expectations or the students are not engaged, contact one of the CIRT instructional designers before changing or abandoning this activity. By your reviewing this activity with an instructional designer, an enhancement such as adding additional learning resources or breaking down the activity into smaller tasks may be the scaffolding needed for the students to become more engaged. Also, contact an instructional designer if you feel your schedule is being consumed with grading a particular assignment or assessment. There are grading tactics that you can employ to minimize the amount of evaluation feedback that you provide to your students. After you complete the grading for each learning module, document in an online notes program, such as Evernote, “what course content and learning activities worked, which ones did not work, and what you would like to change” so that you will have a reference for making changes before teaching the course again.
  2. Interact with your students: To interact with your students, you can provide feedback either individually or to groups of students. For example, you can provide feedback through the grade center to each student as you grade her/his assignments or discussions and you can provide feedback to a group of students by either submitting a blog post to the group’s discussion forum or sending them a link to a podcast that you’ve created. To interact with all students, you can submit succinct Announcement posts highlighting the learning outcomes of the previous module and relating these to the learning objectives of the next module.
  3. Gather feedback on course experience from students: To gather feedback from your students about their learning experiences, have them complete both midterm and end of term course evaluation surveys or have them submit a private journal post that only you will review. Include a rubric with this course evaluation assignment, so that the students will include in their journal posts information that will be valuable to you when improving your course.

After: Reflecting and Course Redesign

  1. Reflect on your online teaching experience: Often when we reach the end of a semester, our memory of what took place during the course is selective and we cannot remember both the highs and the lows of the instruction. It is a good idea to take time to look back over all of your course materials (i.e., assignments, quizzes, discussions, announcements, etc.) as well to thoroughly review and analyze the students’ course evaluations in order to honestly assess quality and usefulness. For example, if students misinterpreted the instructions for an assignment, you might consider revisiting the instructions to provide greater clarity, or you might even consider working with an instructional designer to change the assignment to something else. The main purpose in reflecting is to look back, analyze, and review your course with improvement as the primary goal.
  2. Review feedback and survey results: While email and discussion threads are a good place to gather student feedback about your online course, a student survey is likely to garner more useful student input. The reason is that one or two students complaining could be representative of the whole class, or these students might only be an anomaly. Of course, using a survey to gather student feedback is only as useful as you are willing to implement changes in the course. If students universally deride a particular assignment that you enjoy, you will need to make a decision about keeping it or switching it for something else.
  3. Revise course based on reflection and review: One thing to keep in mind when revising your online course is to go back and take a look at the suggestions from the course review completed before the course was taught. Consider whether the suggestions made in this document were implemented correctly and whether other suggestions that were made might be worth adding to the course. Second, when making significant revisions, consider having another set of eyes take a look at the course. For example, have a colleague or instructional designer look through the instructions and assignments to be certain they are intuitive. The process of reflecting on, and redesigning, your online course does not begin at the end, but at the beginning. You should be thinking about reflection and redesign before you ever even begin teaching the course. In the same way, revising the course should not be a one time thing, but an integral part of the ongoing reflect, review, and revise process.