Online Course Development

10rules_online teachingYears of helping faculty pass to the dark side of online education have taught me a few simple rules that I brow beat (in a collegial way) into all new online teachers.

Rule 1: Provide Extra Detail in Your Online Syllabus
Most of us spend much of the first day of class going through the syllabus, taking time to elaborate on different points, and answering questions as we go along. Online classrooms lack this time, and so the syllabus must be more detailed than it would be for a face-to-face class, especially when it comes to procedures. You can also preempt problems and save time answering questions by creating a discussion forum devoted to common questions about the class itself.

Rule 2: Begin with Community Building
Despite appearances, online education is (should be) a fundamentally communal endeavor, with discussion taking center stage. But discussion requires trust, which can be built through community-building exercises. Some educators even recommend spending the first two weeks on community building, asserting that it will pay for itself in better performance over the remainder of the course.

Rule 3: Design for the Web
I remember building my first online course by transcribing the lectures from my face-to-face course into text. Somehow the students managed to get through them, bless their hearts. But, of course, the online environment is fundamentally visual, built on videos, interaction, exploration, etc. All effective communication requires an understanding of the rules of that environment. Don’t view the online environment through the paradigm of the face-to-face environment. Rather, design for the web.

Rule 4: Account for Different Systems
It’s easy to forget that web pages operate differently on different browsers, and especially on different devices. Ask your instructional designers to go over your course to confirm that everything will work on different systems. It’s a good idea to check in with them before designing content so that they can give you a template that will work.

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Q&A

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What are the best sites for ICT guidance and online professional development courses?

Apart from the obvious at standards.dfes.gov.uk, the Innovation Unit at innovation-unit.co.uk and becta.org.uk, it's hard to beat the encyclopaedic Shambles site (shambles.net). It was built originally to support those teaching ICT in the international school community. It is particularly strong on links to online training and professional development resources.

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