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Overview: Teaching online

Posted at 10:48 a.m. Oct. 1, 2014, by in Teaching Online

Designing an Online Course: Teaching online

Download a printer-friendly PDF overview: Overview of designing an online course

Teaching online can be more work than people think. In most cases, online courses are completely ready to run before the semester actually starts. This means all content?including lectures, assessments, rubrics, and discussion questions?are conceptualized, scheduled, and created prior to the first day of classes. This is often a big change for instructors, who may be used to preparing lecture materials or assignments throughout the semester. Grading and communication can also be more time consuming in an online course. Consider this: Andrea Zellner states in “Dealing with your online teaching challenges“:

In face-to-face classes, looking around the room and generally noting who is engaged in a discussion or not is a quick moment of observation. In an online course, each of those interactions is rendered in black and white, and each of them should be attended to—after all, the students are spending time creating these work products.

Assignments are typically given and graded more frequently, although larger assessments are still important. Smaller assignments can include short writing assignments, small chunks of homework problems, and/or reading quizzes. It’s essential for instructors to provide timely feedback on these smaller assignments. Reasons for smaller assignments and quick feedback will be discussed below, but more frequent assignments can lead to a heavier grading load.

Regular communication with the class about logistics, upcoming materials, current events, and general performance (e.g., “Well done! The class average on reading quizzes improved to 85% this week.”) should conveyed by class announcements. The instructor should plan to send at least two to three announcements per week. Students need to hear from you!

These are important issues to consider if you’ve been thinking about teaching an online course.

What does an online course look like?

Content is typically broken down into weekly or daily units, depending on the semester. In most online courses conducted in Canvas, the instructor uses ‘Modules’ to organize these content units. Each unit (or we could say, ‘module’) contains clear learning goals, required reading, and lecture material. In addition to this, students are typically required to participate in an online discussion (or other interactive activity) of the week’s materials and take a check for understanding quiz. It’s important to have these frequent, smaller (and low-stakes) assignments in online courses. They help keep a student motivated and on track. Without physical classes to attend, it’s easy for an online student to forget about a course for weeks and then be forced to drop the course.

Due dates and methods of submitting and/or completing assignments should also be clear on these unit pages. It’s easy for assignments and due dates to become lost in the shuffle of an online course, and students may become confused about where to find or turn in materials if it’s not clearly laid out for them.

Here is a sample of what a typical online course module/unit might look like in Canvas.  Click on the blue icons below to learn more about each course element.

Click here to view the accessible version of this interactive content

Does this sound like something you can do?

Then, continue on to learn about the process of designing an online course.

Last Updated: Jan 30, 2024 @ 9:11 am

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