The Big Picture
Online learning opens a world of possibilities that are not available to you in a face-to-face class. You'll be amazed at the options you have if you can escape the limits of thinking about your course the way you have always taught it. Instead, begin by asking what your students need to learn. The teaching principles that make for the most effective face-to-face learning also apply to the online classroom. The seven principles dentified by A. Chickering and Z. Gamson ("Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education." AAHE Bulletin, March 1987) are:
- encourage faculty-to-student interaction
- encourage student-to-student interaction
- promote active learning
- communicate high expectations
- facilitate time on task
- provide rich, rapid feedback
- respect diverse learning
Keep these goals in mind as you analyze the way you currently teach and design the course you will teach online. Okay, let's begin.
1. Collect All The Materials You Use To Teach Your Face-To-Face Class.
This includes your notes, textbook, hand-outs, quizzes, exams, assignments/papers/projects, online resources, journal articles, and any pertinent computer files for these resources.
2. Analyze What You Like About The Way You Teach Your Course And What Could Make It Better.
Organize your course into modules. A module may be a concept you wish to examine, a chapter, or some other "chunk". We are chunking the material by modules rather than time (e.g. weeks). Then if we need to adapt the course in the future to a shorter schedule (such as a summer class instead of a semester), we can handle it without a major overhaul of the course.
Open the Module Overview worksheet (click on the link) and print yourself a copy (use landscape, rather than portrait orientation). What module do you most enjoy teaching? Fill out the worksheet with that module in mind. To see a Sample Module Overview worksheet, click here.
When you've finished with your favorite module, print enough copies of the Module Overview worksheets so that you have one for each of your course modules. Take your time as you fill out the worksheet for each of your modules. Thoughtful analysis now will pay off as you design the course you really want to teach.
3. What's Out There – Investigate Online Resources.
Before you start creating your online class, get an idea of what's possible. Examine other courses on the internet to see the features you like and those you definitely do not want to emulate.
MCC faculty have traditionally been very willing to grant guest access to their online courses. Sometimes they also grant permission to copy and/or edit files they have created, as long as you give them credit for their work. Most faculty like to start by viewing a course in their own discipline, but don't stop there. You'll get a wealth of ideas from courses in distant disciplines – ideas of what you want to do and what you definitely want to avoid.
Start investigating MCC online classes by clicking on this link: http://ctl.mc.maricopa.edu/_programs/dlmg/sample_course/index.html Email the faculty member that interests you and ask for permission to view their course. You can also get email addresses for MCC faculty off the MCC homepage ( http://www.mc.maricopa.edu , click on the Contacts button at the top of the page).
You can use a search engine such as Google ( http://www.google.com ) to locate online courses at other institutions throughout the world. Just search for "online courses" , "online English courses". etc. and you'll find a long list. Email the faculty member at the institution that interests you and explain that you are planning to develop an online course and would like to view their course if possible. Not all faculty will grant you access, but many will.
- Merlot provides peer reviewed online teaching and learning materials. Your colleagues share their learning materials, assignments, and expertise. You can even find guest experts in the Virtual Speakers Bureau. (http://www.merlot.org)
- University of Texas World Lecture Hall provides an entry point to free online course materials from around the world. (http://www.utexas.edu/world/lecture/)
- MCLI Teaching and Learning on the Web – although this site is not currently being updated, it contains more than 848 examples of how the web is being used as a medium for learning. Give it a try at (http://www.mcli.dist.maricopa.edu/tl/)
- Exemplary Course Winners are award-winning online courses. Check them out at http://www.webct.com/exemplary
- The MIT Open Courseware Initiative makes MIT course materials that are used in the teaching of almost all undergraduate and graduate subjects available on the web, free of charge, to any user anywhere in the world. (http://ocw.mit.edu/index.html)
- Blue Web'n http://www.kn.pacbell.com/wired/bluewebn is a library of blue ribbon learning sites on the web. You can search by content areas, subject area, and format.
- Free-ed.net ( http://www.free-ed.net/free-ed) is a large source of free courses and learning resources.
- LolaExchange (http://www.lolaexchange.org) is a repository of high-quality learning objects you may use in your class. Before you re-invent the wheel, see what's already available! Remember there is no copyright restriction on what you make links to within your course. While you may not be able to copy a resource into your course, you can always provide a link for students to click on to access the resource. Look for where you can find lessons/animations/videos you might include in your course (via hyperlinks).
- Maricopa Learning Exchange (MLX) http://www.mcli.dist.maricopa.edu/mlx/index.php is an electronic warehouse of ideas, examples, and resources (represented as "packages") that support student learning at the Maricopa Community Colleges.
You might find that a publisher has already created the perfect online course for you, or one that you can modify a bit to suit your desires. Publishers have created online courses called E-packs . You can edit, remove, or add to content in the E-Pack, customizing it for your students. Go to http://www.blackboard.com/extend/Digital_Content/Instructors to see if there is an E-pack for your course!
Investigate these URL's to locate other online courses and/or resources you might want to explore:
4. Applying What You Saw To Your Course
Now that you have an idea of what's possible, let's examine your course again. Print a copy of the Module Details worksheet (click on this link, select landscape orientation rather than portrait). Place this worksheet beside the Module Overview worksheet you filled out for your favorite module. You may want to tape the two sheets together, making one long worksheet ( 22 inches wide, 8.5 inches tall).
Fill in the Module Details worksheet with the ideas you would implement if there were no limitations. At this stage, do not worry the feasibility of your ideas. There may be technology/software/tools available that can deliver your ideal course even though you are not aware of them yet. We'll work on that later. Right now we are brainstorming! Click on this link to view a Sample Module Details worksheet.
For some ideas that might spur your creative juices, check out the Treasure Trove of Ideas for Teaching Online.
Also check out the Sample Statements you can include in your course.
5. Creating Your Course
So you're ready to begin! What software will you use to create your online lessons? Check out my suggestions at Peg's_Top_Ten_Tips_for_Creating_an_Online_or_Hybrid_Course
You'll want your course to reflect the best practices of online teaching, so be sure to examine MCC's Best_Practices_for_Online_Learning
Most likely, you'll have questions and would like a bit more help. The CTL website has a plethora of documents that take you step-by-step through many of the tasks you'll be tackling. If you are using WebCT as your learning management system, check out http://ctl.mc.maricopa.edu/_resources/webct/index.html
For resources of a more general nature, check out http://ctl.mc.maricopa.edu/wiki/index.php/Category:Help_Resources
If you'd rather start with a workshop, the CTL offers those too. To see the calendar of workshops, go to http://ctl.mc.maricopa.edu/. Click on the CTL Calendar button in the upper left corner of the screen.
You can access knowledgeable, friendly computer nerds in the CTL. Make an appointment if you want to be sure someone is available to help you when you arrive. Drop on by if you are feeling lucky and hope someone can help you!
The CTL secretary can be reached at 480-461-7366. Melanie is at 480-461-7799 (firstname.lastname@example.org), Jennifer at 480-4617668 (email@example.com), Jeff at 480-461-7709 (firstname.lastname@example.org), or Peggy at 480-461-7703 (email@example.com).
Note: Computers are also available for faculty use on a first-come, first-serve basis in the CTL.
6. The Perfect Course
Relax! You won't be creating the perfect online course, at least not the first time you teach it. No doubt your face-to-face teaching has evolved over the years. You experiment with new approaches, continually refining your teaching. Expect this to happen with your Web-based course too. Give yourself permission to be a student too – to learn over time. But this guide will help you create a very good online course to start with. You can improve it from there!