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The following is a list of endorsed best practices that you may wish to explore and/or implement in your online course:
Well-designed course pages, rubrics, lessons, and assignments are paramount to superior design of online courses. Instructional materials should be presented in a visual format appropriate to the online environment. Breaking instructional units into smaller parts can enhance learning and increase motivation (Cornell & Martins, 1997; Keller & Burkman, 1993).
The definition of organize is to “form into a whole.” Your objective here is to organize your Web course into a logical, systematic format that is easy for the student to navigate and understand. To facilitate organization, many faculty use an introductory lesson (Welcome or Introduction Module) that introduces the course, course components, schedule or flow, and organization. Also, a well designed introductory lesson will acquaint the learner with the Webcourses@UCF tools used in the course. A comprehensive set of course protocols (Rules of the Road) should be the foundation of a well-organized online course.
Ausubel’s (1968) idea of an “advance organizer” is to relate what a student already knows to the new content to be learned and thus increase retention. Advance organizers should be at a higher level of abstraction, generality, and inclusiveness than the content to be presented. Although not technically advance organizers, some faculty may choose to provide overviews, outlines, statements of objectives, pre-instructional questions, etc., for similar reasons.
One way to organize a course is to provide a visual model or map of the different components, thereby, providing another learning style for your students. Each component may be linked to the appropriate section in the course. Also, examples or models may be provide clarity. You may wish to provide the format for the assignment.
One of the implicit goals of any instructional setting is to provide students with the opportunity to interact with the course content, the instructor, and other students. An advantage of the online learning environment is the increased potential for students (individually or in groups) to make personal meaning from course content.
John Dewey introduced interaction to education in 1916. He referred to a form of internal interaction as the defining component of the educational process that occurs when the student transforms the inert information passed to them from another and constructs it into knowledge with personal application and value (Dewey, 1916).
Interaction examples include collaborative and cooperative learning groups.
Learning activities provide students with the opportunity to work together and interact. Collaborative learning can be effective in that it is a means for students “to think out the content that has been presented and to test it in exchanges with their peers” (Moore & Kearsley, 1996).
Professors frequently specify the work required to obtain each grade level (A, B, C). It is up to the student to determine the grade level they desire and the amount of work they are willing to do to earn the grade. Learning contracts may be informal where a student simply turns in the appropriate assignments for the desired grade or a written contract agreed to in advance. If a written contract is required, you need to provide a procedure to submit the contracts via e-mail.
Instructors need to provide two types of feedback: information feedback and acknowledgment feedback. Sometimes a simple auto-reply to an e-mail is adequate when a students submits an assignment via e-mail. Webcourses@UCF offers instructors the ability to return feedback in the Assignment tool, Quizzes, Discussions and via e-mail. Ask yourself, “Is feedback commensurate with student performance?”
Effectively designed and implemented simulations have the potential to be transformational learning experiences for online learners. A simulation-based course can transform your field of study into an exciting and challenging experience for you and your students. Faculty may find off-the-shelf simulation (Nursing) software or DVDs they may wish to utilize.
Faculty may provide students with a choice of assignments from which to choose. The student has control over their educational experience by deciding what to learn or to what extent to learn. All students in the course arrive at the same destination though choose different paths of study.
When “higher-order” thinking is required to solve/understand complex problems, ideas or concepts, frequently, the learner must apply these concepts to other problems.
Webcourses@UCF allows several forms of communication for your students. Chat rooms allow students to carry on synchronous conversations while the discussions tool allows asynchronous communication.
Do not overlook the Internet as a reference source for your course. Links may be provided throughout your course to appropriate sites. The Web adds a new and sometimes varied perspective to your content.
Professionally-produced audio, video, interactive media, and graphics bring many possible enhancements to an online course. Additionally, links may be added to give students access to existing online resources.
Tutorials may be added to your course to assist the student in learning a specific aspect. For example: If use of a computer program is required in the course, a tutorial may be used to give them a jump start. Online orientations are available for students in Webcourses@UCF at http://learn.ucf.edu
If case studies are used as part of the learning methods in your course, they may be continued in Web-based courses. You may set up a discussion for each case study which will allow students to communicate.
With self-assessment, students can track their progress to ensure they have mastered the course information. Practice provides the students with the opportunity to master course materials before proceeding to the next level of instruction. For example, quizzes on Webcourses@UCF allow the student to get immediate feedback on their mastery of the content and to continue to the next level. If a student fails to master or understand the information, they can identify difficulties they are experiencing and either ask for help or continue in their practice of the materials.
The importance of pretests is twofold. First, is to determine the skills or knowledge the students may already possess about the course materials. Second, pre-testing serves as a means to measure the improvement in the skills or knowledge the students acquired from the presentation of the course materials.
Throughout a course, an instructor should look at student’s test results, as well as the reactions and suggestions from students to determine what problems may exist in the duration of the course materials, as well as if the course objectives are being met. The information provided by the students can then be implemented to revise the course materials throughout the delivery of the course materials. The Webcourses@UCF assessment tool may be used to deliver evaluations.
Upon completion of a course, summative evaluations should be utilized to measure if the course objectives were met. Post-tests and/or final exams can be used as a means of summative evaluations. Student reactions toward the overall course can also be determined from the student evaluations at the end of the term. The Webcourses@UCF Assessment tool may be used to deliver evaluations.