Are you thinking of launching an e-course this fall? Then planning and developing it over the summer is the perfect time. Here are 4 steps to get you started:
1) Draw your course outline
2) Determine how best to teach your students
3) Create the content, activities & assessment
4) Go technology shopping
1) START with DRAWING YOUR COURSE OUTLINE
Draw a map of your course illustrating what you want your students to learn. To help you focus, think about what you want them to get from your course when they’re done. For example, they could:
- have a new skill, therefore can DO something new
- understand a topic deeper, therefore KNOW something more
- shift their thinking, therefore PERCEIVE something through a fresh lens, and/or
- change their behaviour, therefore BEHAVE differently (and for the better)
Then, think about how you can teach them to achieve that ‘something’. What are the steps that would become your individual lessons?
Here’s a map for a simple course on having a memorable vacation in Japan. Notice there are 2 goals with 3 modules and 6 lessons to help them achieve those goals.
ACTION STEP: Hand draw your course outline.
2) DETERMINE HOW BEST to TEACH THEM
This is the trickiest part and one I get asked a lot about – what to put in each lesson. So I’ve broken down types of knowledge and how best to teach that ONLINE. Continuing with our Japanese vacation course, I’ve illustrated how to create lessons below.
Click to enlarge
You don’t have to include each type of knowledge in every lesson (or course for that matter). Having a long speech in an audio piece about how the Japanese culture has rituals will bore students to death.
Students probably want to learn more about why there are rituals (conceptual) and how they work (procedural) in longer lessons. So keep factual knowledge short and sweet (i.e. what is a ritual).
ACTION STEP: Create your own table for each lesson.
3) CREATE the CONTENT, ACTIVITIES & ASSESSMENTS
The first 2 steps will help you IMMENSELY on deciding what content is needed. Otherwise, you could waste a lot of time, get frustrated and give up on your course. Spend time on the previous steps as they will inform you on the bits and pieces for each lesson.
- CONTENT: Follow your plan above and write small pieces of content every few days.
- For the Japanese vacation course, we need an introduction section on Japanese culture with rituals mentioned; a diagram (like the one above) showing a relationship between rituals and customs; and a written procedure with pictures (or video) on what takes place in a ceremony. These three pieces could take about 4 hours to produce.
- ACTIVITIES: Active learning (i.e. doing something; practicing) are important to move knowledge to long-term or permanent memory. Once there, students can reuse the information. Think about how you can help your students ‘work on’ the knowledge you provide.
- The tea ceremony procedure would be perfect with a quiz on getting the steps in the right order. Imagine if a tourist grabbed their cup at the wrong time!
- ASSESSMENT: Test your students on major pieces of knowledge they should acquire in your course. They’ll want to know if they are getting it and so will you. Right? You can assess by having them submit their work, set up a quiz that automatically marks or provide an answer sheet with the solutions, or have them turn to others in the course and ask for feedback on their actions/ideas.
- The instructor of the Japanese vacation course could ask the participants which of the main traditions of Japan they think mostly influences tea ceremonies. This conversation could happen in an online discussion forum as it is conceptual knowledge and not practical know-how (as with factual or procedural knowledge).
ACTION STEP: For each lesson, create individual content and 1 or 2 activities. For each course, ensure there are 2 or 3 assessments with feedback.
4) GO TECHNOLOGY SHOPPING
Now that you have your course outline, lesson map and content, activities and assessments, you need to find them a home – aka digital platforms. Most of the time this is the question people ask first – what technology they should use. But it really is the last decision when creating a course.
Use this as a rule of thumb for selecting the right technology:
- FACTUAL KNOWLEDGE: If your course is more about facts then put them into a written document (PDFs or book) and deliver the lessons, activities and assessments that way. Save yourself the trouble of creating highly interactive courses for basic knowledge.
- CONCEPTUAL KNOWLEDGE: If your course works more with concepts, use illustrations, charts and examples to help students understand them. This is a good rule for transformational courses that explore higher ideals. Add the human element of discussion, critical thinking and debate. In this case, use a few web pages for content, but have a way for learners to actively connect and share ideas.
- PROCEDURAL KNOWLEDGE: A course that shows how to do something step-by-step is best presented in rich multimedia, such as video, images and/or audio. This would require a more organized online space to present the content, as with course software.
ACTION STEP: Look at your course knowledge types before you buy or download any software or tech tools. What is really needed to support that type of learning?