Developing an online course could be an overwhelming experience. However, if you are intentional in your design, the development process will become more natural and your students will also benefit from the layout of a consistent and well thought out course. Below are some best practices to help you consider your course design and get you going in your course development.
- Consistent content and course activities
Review the content for the course and map the consistent styles of content that will be used each week. This will help form a template for each module that can remain consistent throughout the semester. This will help with your organization of the course and assist in planning what needs to be developed each week. For students, the consistent layout will help in creating a routine for the course and will reduce “surprises” which might cause confusion for the learners.
- Session activity checklists
Activity checklists act as the roadmap for each module and keep participants on task. It’s great to use a checklist type format since they can mark the completion of activities and see their progress as they go through the module. The checklist can also include due dates, the content to review and which activities need to be complete. Reminders of upcoming due dates can also be added to the end of the checklist.
- Engagement Guidelines
Engagement guidelines can be included in the syllabus or be a separate document which list the expectations you have of the participants in the course. Engagement guidelines can include; due dates for discussion or reflection based activities, the schedule and types of interactions you hope to have in synchronous sessions, the tone of reflection/discussion posts (casual discussion vs. formal posts), the type of participation students can expect from you throughout the course, and response times students can expect from you when awaiting replies to questions.
- Course Orientation
This document or short video will introduce the course section and explain how things are organized in the course, the types of materials they’ll access and the activities they’ll complete.
- Welcome Letter/Video
The start of the course is also a perfect opportunity to introduce yourself to the class. Give more insight to your background, expertise, hopes for the course and other general information about yourself to ignite the development of the learning community.
- Ask the Class forum
Create a forum where students can post their questions. This cuts back on the amount of emails, many of which might be the same question, and allows for students to also reply resolutions and work-around to answer questions.
- Start with an ice breaker activity
Start with a low stakes assignment that gets student familiar with the discussion tool as well as their classmates. Make the icebreaker fun and be sure it’s more than “tell me more about yourself.” Give the icebreaker a purpose, such as tying the activity to the course, asking what they hope to get out of the class, and their main interests in the course topics.