(Darrencrone, 2010, November 2)
As the above video illustrates, an online course cannot be planned and implemented overnight! This section has general considerations to help you prepare your first online course. These considerations are also relevant if you are going to teach a previously developed online course.
Where do I start?
You should plan to start preparing your online course well in advance of the beginning of class — ideally at least 2 to 3 months before the course will be taught. Even if this course has already been taught online you will need time to prepare and change things for your best outcome. The day the learners enter the learning environment, the whole course needs to be online with very few exceptions. Once the course begins and learners begin interacting with content already posted it is more difficult to change the course. If you alter something after a student has reviewed it and they miss what you have changed they can be justifiably angry. So save yourself a lot of trouble and finish the course before you start.
Planning an online course is no different than planning any other course you are teaching. Your syllabus is your guide. Each institution has their specific requirements for a syllabus and you should use that format. Plan your course and your learning assignments in your syllabus along with the details of how they should be accomplished. The more detail the better.
During this process you will also develop a schedule of learning activities, assignments and due dates for that particular semester. These will guide you in developing your online content. Consider using a planning template (adapted from Boetccher & Conrad, 2010) that highlights the relationship between learning objectives, assessments, content and activities. Remember, everything in a course should be based on the learning objectives!
As you plan, take into consideration all the different complications or conflicts that might arise such as:
- When does the course officially begin and end?
- When is semester break?
- What holidays does your school follow?
- What other time conflicts might arise?
- Will you have any on-campus days?
- What sorts of learning experiences would be better presented on campus than online?
- Do you have any personal conflicts during the semester?
There are a lot of things to think about as you develop your online course. Here are some common pitfalls of creating an online course by Elizabeth St. Germain.