A checklist is absolutely essential to moving a face-to-face course online. Not only does it help the instructor conceptualize their course in an online environment, it helps the instructional designer see what needs to be done. Here is a simple guide to preparing to move your courses online.
Topics to consider
Most courses run the length of a semester, but this does not always translate directly to an online format. For instance, you may have 30 minutes of instruction in a course session followed by class activity and homework. Students are then given activities and readings to do outside of class that support the lecture. By contrast, in an online course, the “lecture” need not be the center of instruction, but more of a means to guide students to the concepts they will learn through other material. In my online business courses, I like to first provide students with relevant practical materials to dive in and see the concepts in action. I then use my lecture as a way to wrap-up and highlight what was learned in the module.
In many cases, there are fewer course objectives for online courses, in that material is chunked to keep students from becoming overwhelmed. Review current course objectives and make a note of which topics contain the most and the least number of objectives. Also, make a note of which topics/modules/sessions contain objectives that are often difficult for your students.
Some of the biggest misconceptions are made when considering learning activities. For instance, many faculty believe that the online course equivalent involves just uploading PowerPoint slides to substitute for in-class lectures. In face-to-face classes, learning activities often consist of lecture, discussions, practice problems, video discussion, group work, etc. Of course, this can greatly depend on the subject being taught, the size of the class, comfort level of the teacher, available technology in the room, and many other things.
Does your course have a midterm and a final? How about weekly quizzes, homework, lab assignments, and practice problem sets? How do these translate into an online environment? There are many ways to handle assessments, but you need to be clear on whether the assessment is a formative or a summative one. A formative assessment gauges how students are doing along the way. The purpose of a formative assessment is to provide feedback and inform students of their progress and what they need to improve upon. On the other hand, summative assessments are more final and should be used to evaluate students on their level of learning, skills development, and overall achievement in the course. So, the type of assessment will help determine the appropriate online strategy to access your students.
Course development checklist for faculty
Now that you've thought about your course in both formats—face-to-face and the new online format—you will need to succinctly summarize this for your instructional designer. Having a checklist that summarizes the major aspects of your face-to-face course is helpful before sitting down with your instructional designer. This ensures that you both are on the same page about the course structure, learning activities, assessments, and so on.
Here are the questions to answer when filling out your checklist:
Overall course features:
- What are the top three features that you MOST like about your course? In other words, which course features (i.e., lectures, exams, assignments, etc.) do you feel work, and would you keep the same?
- What are the top three features that you LEAST like about your course? In other words, what are some features (i.e., lectures, exams, assignments, etc.) that you would change if you could?
- Which two course features (i.e., lectures, exams, assignments, etc.) do you feel work, and would you keep the same?
- What are the three MOST popular learning activities in your course (e.g., the wiki on green computing)?
- What are two challenges or struggles have you experienced in teaching this course? For instance, “Lecture two is dry, and students do not pick up the material well.”
- What are the muddiest points per module/lecture that students experience in learning from your course?
- What are three technology features that you would add to your course to enhance its learning activities?
- Do you use any formative assessment tools such as quizzes, homework, practice sets, etc.? If yes, what are students required to do to successfully complete them?
- Do you have grading rubrics for your assessments?
- What are the three or four primary ways that students interact (with you, with each other) in your course?
- What are three or four interactions that you would like to see in an online course?
The answers to these questions will guide your course development and will help your instructional designer translate your material to an online environment. Feel free to download a course development checklist at https://bit.ly/2IeRn2K
Successful online courses are carefully planned learning experiences with activities intended to encourage, engage, and empower students to learn independently. The main goal is to ensure that the intent, tone, and academic rigor of the course does not get "lost in translation." Putting in a bit of legwork beforehand and thinking about the learning experience is crucial to ensuring a quality outcome.
Angela Heath teaches online computer courses at Baptist Health Systems in San Antonio, Texas.