10 rules for developing your first online course


Rule 7: Remember the Workload Parameters 
Some faculty seem to think that they need to “make up” for the online format by assigning extra work, or maybe the cornucopia of material available on the web makes them want to assign all of it, less a student miss some detail that they may need 20 years down the line. Either way, faculty commonly assign too much content in an online class. If you assign too much, students will only view part of it, and the part they choose as more important may not be what you think is most important. Define a workload range and stay within it.

Rule 8: Provide Content in Different Formats Whenever Possible
While the premise that people have different learning styles is somewhat controversial, I’ve found that different people prefer different types of content. For this reason, as well as ADA purposes, it’s a good idea to present content in different formats whenever possible. This could be as simple as providing a transcript to accompany a video.

Rule 9: Mix Content and Activities 
One disadvantage of the traditional college lecture is that it separates content from engagement. The teacher talks for 50 minutes or longer, and the students engage with the material later as homework. But this is not how we learn. We need practice and reflection every 20 minutes or so to move knowledge from our short-term memory to our long-term memory. In the online classroom, systems like VoiceThread or Articulate Storyline are ideal for allowing teachers to intersperse activities with their content to enable immediate application and better retention.

Rule of Rules (10): It Takes Longer Than You Think
All faculty members, including me, underestimate how long it will take them to develop online content. I tell faculty to develop their content during the semester prior to the course going live, earlier if at all possible.

John Orlando, PhD, writes, consults, and teaches faculty how to use technology to improve learning. This article first appeared in Faculty Focus.