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The purpose of this book is to provide guidance and advice for instructors who would like to develop an online course. The overall goal is to provide some clarity about many of the steps required to propose and design a course, to describe the resources needed, and to explain the roles of the stakeholders. Online courses generally take much longer to develop than most people realize.
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1: Overview of Online Courses
Traditional online courses come in many varieties, from small cohort models to large “lecture hall” courses of hundreds. Some of them are also considered “blended” or “flipped” in that they meet partially in person and partially online. Some traditional online courses even integrate open features like Open Educational Resources (OER), social networking tools like Twitter, and collaborative learning.
2: Basic Philosophies
Most (but not all) courses tend to be either focused on the instructor as dispenser of knowledge, or the learner as self-guided constructor of knowledge. Many courses are a mixture of both, but gravitate towards one side or the other regardless. Courses of any size can be either student-centered or instructor-centered, so you will first need to decide which direction your course will (generally) take.
3: Institutional Courses
While online courses could potentially cover any topic, your institution or company may have a specific niche within the online learning world that they focus on. Or you may have the freedom to cover any topic you like. Either way, there are several areas related to online course design that you should be familiar with before you propose and create a new course.
4: Production Timelines and Processes
Once you are familiar with online learning in general and the tools you will need, you will need to decide if a MOOC or a regular online course is the right choice for you. Once you have decided which the best choice is, the next step is to begin the official proposal process.
5: Effective Practices
In general, there are many different ways to design online courses that work in different contexts, and many ways to design online courses that do not work in various other contexts. We are avoiding the term “best practices” here because online teaching and learning can vary in different contexts, making “best” a problematic term.
6: Creating Effective Course Activities
In order to cross over from passive content consumption into active learning, you will need to make real-life activities the focus of your course content (Hayes, 2015). Activities can be discussions, interactive assignments, blogging, and social media participation – or could even involve learners themselves creating content and activities.
7: Creating Effective Course Content
Content can be videos, text, webpages, and textbooks. While MOOCs are typically lighter in these areas than a typical online course, traditional online courses can also be light on content, while MOOCs can be heavy on content. This content can be external to the LMS platform, or hosted inside of it. Since we encourage a focus on active learning over passive consumption of content in courses, we also encourage you to consider the activities first and then add content to support those activities.
8: Open Educational Resources
The section on openness in the previous chapter touched on the concept of “open” as being more complex than just “free.” In a more formal sense, educational resources that are released openly are often called “open educational resources” (OER). But there is often more to OER being considered “open” than just price. The OER Commons define OER as “teaching and learning materials that you may freely use and reuse, without charge.
9: Assessment and Grading Issues
Grading and assessment in learning is a complex subject that can (and often does) fill an entire book alone. It is also an area that all instructors with any experience in teaching know well. Grading can run the gamut from informal off the cuff questions thrown out spontaneously in class to gauge understanding, all the way to extensively controlled, proctored high stake tests.
10: Creating Quality Videos
Video production is a time-intensive process that requires extensive planning and preparation. Please review the following sections to ensure that you have allotted enough time and resources to create the desired amount of video you would like for your course.
11: Utilizing Social Learning in Online Courses
You may have noticed that many online courses utilize social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter. While there really is no one right way to utilize social media in a course, there are concepts and designs that work better than others. This section will cover some ideas and suggestions for social media usage in your course.
12: Mindfulness in Online Courses
Online courses have given learners across the globe a unique opportunity to learn outside of formal educational settings and in less supervised environments. The independent nature of this form of learning heightens the need for learners to have the tools to both initiate and manage their own learning. Moreover, as individuals engage with content, instructors, and fellow students exclusively online, an explicit focus on techniques meant to deepen the learning experience becomes more important.
13: Advanced Course Design
While there is no standard or threshold for what makes something “standard” or “advanced” course design, there are many ideas and structures (or lack of structure) that would be considered “cutting edge” or “experimental” by many. This chapter will briefly touch on a few of these that you can try in your courses. There are many others beyond these. If you can think of something that is outside of what is covered in this manual, but would be a good idea for your course.
14: Marketing of an Online Course
Now that you have successfully planned your course it is time to tell the world about it and get those enrollment numbers moving. For those in more traditional institutions and companies, this may just mean getting your course listed in the course catalog or company newsletter. However, for other courses (especially MOOCs), you might need to do a lot of the promotion yourself. For those that need to self-promote their course, here are some tips.
At the end of the day, you will probably be the best person to lay out your own process for creating a course. Take the ideas you have learned here (or maybe refreshed your memory about) and just start somewhere. This manual follows the way that some generally follow when they create a course, but you may want to remix or reorder to fit your needs. Just keep your learners and their needs central to whatever process you decide to follow.
Bibliography for all chapters.
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