Random Thoughts on Instructional Design
Not all students are comfortable with technology. Therefore, it becomes necessary to create assignments early in the course that will help facilitate a student’s comfort level. For example: have learners edit their homepage, scan a photo and insert it into their homepage, send an email, post to a discussion forum, participate in a chat, etc. Get them actively involved in using the technology.
Create a discussion forum that allows students to openly discuss topics of interest to them. For example encourage them to discuss things like popular music, bands, and movies online. Allow them the freedom to participate and encourage them to do so. This has two side effects: one, it necessitates that they use the computer to participate and two, it encourages them to meet one another online.
Be an active facilitator of the discussion forum. Plan on adding one new topic to the discussion board each week. To achieve maximum participation, present topics that require responses from students that are concise, critical, and substantiated by facts. Monitor and respond to student threads and encourage students to do the same.
Create assignments, activities, or projects that permit students to “actively construct” knowledge when interacting with the information from the course. Create discussion threads that incorporate hypothetical scenarios, case studies, or theoretical conflicts to fuel discussions.
If you choose to hold “Virtual Office Hours” be sure to be online and available at the announced time. Not showing up for “Virtual Office Hours” is no different than not showing up for established office hours and/or class.
Develop a timeline for adding content to the course. You want to engage learners with one chapter at a time. If too much information is available, the students will not focus on the chapter, unit, or module at hand.
When using a computer to learn, learning itself becomes an active process of seeking out information and constructing that information into an internal representation of that information/knowledge. Try and balance the amount of guidance provided while permitting students the flexibility to explore and navigate your materials freely to construct their own meaningful knowledge.
Evaluation is an extremely important component of the development and delivery of any online course. It is important that you take the time to prepare thorough surveys or questionnaires to gauge students’ reaction to learning in an online environment. Descriptions of their experiences will help you shape the next online course that you create.