Last week, an article was published on Campus Technology.com by Richard Rose, who is the program chairman for instructional technology and design at West Texas A&M University. In the article, Rose reveals 6 easy steps for online success. For the benefit of our readers, I’ve summarized his points below. Don’t forget to check out the full article, here.
Secret 1: UX and Layout Matter
While early on, it was excusable for web-based courses to appear as if they were thrown together by a novice, with varying font sizes and lack of structure, it is not acceptable today. It’s imperative that not only is the content of the course well planned for and interesting, but that layout and structure are thoroughly considered as well. The bottom line is that students won’t respect the material if the course looks like a tech-savvy middle school student put it together.
Secret 2: Professors Should Be Connected And Ready To Respond
Students come to expect that their professors will respond, like, right now. That’s one of the perks of online learning. Students are able to have access to information and their professors almost constantly. Rose noted that he checks his student’s emails 3 times during the day to ensure a quick response to all students.
Secret 3: Most Students Prefer Structure
Some students fear taking online classes because they worry they don’t possess the self-motivation, or that the program will lack structure, and they’ll fall behind. One way to mitigate that fear is to provide online students with deadlines. Rose mentions that he provides his students with the option to work on a deadline-based schedule or a rolling schedule, and almost all of his students choose the deadline-based schedule, even when given the option! Alas, due dates aren’t that bad after all!
Secret 4: A Formal Forum For Student Feedback Should Be Provided
At Rose’s institution, each semester every student receives a formal phone appointment with the program chair in which the student is able to discuss issues such as how the program is going, specific class projects, student work-life balance and plans after graduation. While these sessions certainly are a great way for the student to sound-off, the conversations are also invaluable to program growth.
Secret 5: Capitalize On What Online Does Better Than Offline
A hot-button issue with online education is that certain elements of interaction that come with traditional classroom instruction cannot be replicated. And so be it. Sure, there are certain things that online education cannot offer, but there are also things it can offer. Instructor videos can be rewound and re-watched, something that doesn’t exist with an in person lecture. This allows students the opportunity to learn at their own pace.
Secret 6: A Perpetual Showcase Should Be Available
Like in elementary school when a teacher would put the best projects on the class bulletin board, the same idea can be practiced digitally. By showcasing the best work from a course, future students will have the ability to refer to the work of past students and also get a glimpse into the key learning objectives from the course.
Richard Rose offers very valuable insights into what it takes to effectively design and run an online course. This topic is not new however. Since the dawn of online education, instructional designers and program administrators have aimed to ensure that students are learning effectively and that enrollment in their programs is increasing. There are a few other notable articles that also address online course success including the Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 17 Elements of Good Online Courses, Illinois Online Network and Strategies for Effective Online Course Design. What do you think makes for a good online course?