Online learning has been a wild ride for higher ed. “Just make it so, number one” is how it felt to those doing the instruction. Students needed to finish courses and preserve their credits, coronavirus or no coronavirus.
Now that the urgency is beginning to fade, we are going into a new phase. We have the room and breath (hopefully) to better plan how and what to teach. Going forward will be less about immediacy and more about quality, as this pandemic has shown us, we’ll need to be ready for the next interruption, and honestly, it may herald a new way of doing things in higher ed.
Educators and institutions have been very clear that they need more help in understanding how to effectively design, develop, and deliver high-quality instruction online.
This is true for all instructors and institutions but is greatest for those teaching at institutions that serve those who will likely be affected most because they lack access to needed resources and technology.
What has dropped this week is a faculty-focused online playbook from Every Learner Everywhere that provides those expert resources and guidance to assist us all as we struggle to master the next phase and improve online learning.
The online playbook, Delivering High-Quality Instruction Online in Response to COVID-19, was developed by the Online Learning Consortium, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and Every Learner Everywhere, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The playbook is over 55 pages of great instructional insight covering various topics such as designing with equity in mind, course design, content management, and more.
Here is a synopsis of those 55 pages (if you don’t have time for 55 pages!) including a handy overview of topics covered. It also includes links to great resources for further reading, all in one place.
To begin with, the online playbook provides a path for continuous improvement of instruction along a quality-oriented continuum and provides guidance along with three milestones:
- Initial Design
Guides immediate and basic needs for moving a course online. In the past few months, this has been “your hair on fire” modality. And that was totally ok. Going forward, you will use less “fire” and more thoughtful design. It is useful for the translation of face-to-face or blended courses for fully-online delivery.
It provides options to strengthen the student learning experience. This milestone presents itself when you have the time to recognize what worked and what didn’t, and how to improve online learning experiences for your students. It is useful for improving face-to-face course elements that do not translate easily to online modalities.
Optimize offers ideas and resources for online teaching that aligns with high-quality, evidence-based instructional practices. It is useful for the continuous improvement of the online learning experience and student outcomes. This maps to a more settled milestone where you can incorporate more support for the longevity of any course.
These are all good principles to use whether you are in a crisis or just generally for good learning design.
So, In a Nutshell:
When you are thinking of how to design your course or courses, the use of an evidence-based model (they link to Backward Design) helps you begin with the end in mind. If you begin with where you want them to end up, it is much easier to see the forest for the trees in laying out your course.
The following is excerpted from the playbook:
Key course design principles include:
- Become familiar with basic quality standards for online courses as you begin to design your course – regardless of whether you have months to prepare, or are going online quickly.
- Use measurable learning objectives/outcomes.
- Align content, activities, and assessments to learning objectives/outcomes.
- Consider how your face-to-face strategies translate to the online environment, and media-rich and/or courseware options for enhancing the learning experience.
- As you assess content and materials and determine needs for adaptation of existing materials and/or the addition of new content for effective online delivery, be sure to attend to web accessibility standards (check out these ten steps for a great foundation) and use Universal Design for Learning wherever possible.
- Design with equity in mind. This equity rubric can help guide course design to provide the opportunity for all learners to succeed.
Beyond effective design and presentation of content and materials, there are several things you can do to set yourself and your students up for success:
- Become familiar with the LMS that your institution uses (and your remote proctoring solution if you have one ).
- Select supplementary tools based on your course outcomes and goals. Here is a great list of some from which to choose.
- Introducing yourself and your course is important for establishing your class environment, setting expectations, and for allowing students and instructors to get to know one another. In an emergent situation, providing a course welcome in the online course can help ease the disruption and set the stage for instructional continuity.
- Design your course to provide intentional opportunities for students to interact with the instructor, each other, and the course content.
- Set clear and explicit expectations for your course for both performance and interaction. This is especially important in the online environment, where there are fewer verbal or behavioral cues than in face-to-face courses.
- Provide options and opportunities for students to communicate with the instructor. This is especially important in online courses, where real-time interaction is limited or unavailable.
- Provide academic support resources (including institutional resources such as library and tutoring services as well as supplemental resources) and ensure that students are aware of them.
- After an online course is completed and has been offered, it is important to regularly evaluate and rove the course to ensure that it is up-to-date, relevant, and following current best practices for high-quality online education.
Download the Faculty Playbook here.
The ensuing months will provide an exciting time to examine instructional methods, use the feedback you receive, and refine them. We’ll be better prepared for “next time,” and who knows, maybe improve online learning so well that we change the face of education!
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