Fully online courses are those where the students and instructor do not meet face-to-face in a classroom setting. The course may be fully asynchronous where students complete course requirements at their own pace with no specified times for ‘live’ interaction via the internet. Alternatively, an online course may include some synchronous elements such as specified online office hours where the instructor is available to answer questions in real-time, or designated live discussions via video conference technology or a text-based discussion board.
Students enrolled in a fully online course may be on campus taking face-to-face courses or they may be distributed around the world.
Good course design and careful preparation of course materials is particularly important in fully online courses. You don’t have the luxury of using class time to clarify questions and you want to maximize the time students spend in the course learning the course content and completing assessments and evaluations.
The Quality Matters Higher Education Rubric is a framework designed to help create excellent online and blended courses. The Quality Matters rubric is based on national standards of research, best practices and instructional design principles. The rubric includes a set of eight general categories and 43 specific review standards and is an effective course design and development tool because it focuses on alignment of all course components.
The eight general standards of the QM Rubric are:
- Course overview and introduction
- Learning objectives (competencies)
- Assessment and measurement
- Instructional materials
- Learner interaction and engagement
- Course technology
- Learner support
For more information about implementing Quality Matters at Iowa State University, visit Quality Matters Tracks for Faculty Development at Iowa State website or contact the CELT Online Learning Innovation Hub at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Online Teaching Resources
Rob Kelly’s article Six Tips for Preparing Your Online Course provides a great framework for getting ready to teach online. A summary of the six tips include:
- Be clear, concise, and comprehensive. Everything for the course needs to be in place and online before the class starts. It needs to be organized in a logical way and there should be instructions for students on how to navigate the course.
- Provide a manageable amount of content. Consider how much work is reasonable to expect of students keeping in mind this may not be their only course. To calculate expected time to complete tasks use Rice University’s workload calculator website.
- Provide a variety of learning activities. Include a variety of activities to ensure diverse learners can achieve the maximum from the course and meet the course learning objectives.
- Avoid making last-minute changes. These changes can result in inconsistent information such as assignment details and due dates.
- Provide resources to help students succeed in the online classroom. Don’t assume that your students have all the knowledge and expertise to succeed in an online course format.
- Test the course in different browsers and on different computers. Sometimes what works on one computer doesn’t work on another. Consider having a colleague help with this and also ask them to check the course for ease of navigation, clear instructions, and accurate placement of content.
There are many avenues of help open at Iowa State University, but are you sure students know about them? What if the components in your online course are the only point of contact with the institution? Shouldn’t some information about help options be available in every course?
A best practice for online course design is to include the following learner resources: technical support, accessibility policies and services, academic support resources, and additional ISU resources that promote student success (Quality Matters Standard 7). Faculty are encouraged to create a “Learner Support” content area within Blackboard or Canvas by copying/pasting or linking directly to the Online Learner Support website.
What is “Netiquette”? Simply put it is “Internet Etiquette” or the conventions of politeness pertaining the way we use the Internet and interact with others online. To provide a foundation for civility in the online learning environment we promote the following Netiquette at ISU (PDF).
If you are new to teaching in the online or blended format, or are interested in new ideas to enhance your existing online or blended course, visit Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository at Central Florida University website. The repository has three categories Course Content, Interaction, and Assessment, each with multiple entries. Each entry describes a strategy drawn from the pedagogical practice of online/blended teaching faculty, depicts this strategy with artifacts from actual courses, and is aligned with findings from research or professional practice literature.
Consider Universal Design for Learning Concepts to Make Course Effective for All Learners