Teacher Tap

The Basics: Eight Elements of Effective Online Courses

As you work your way through the workshop materials, think about the following eight elements of effective online courses. Although you may not be familiar with all of the terms and approaches right now, this workshop will help you develop the skills to be a successful online course developer.

elements1 - Focus on Course Creation. Rather than trying to make traditional courses or library programs fit into a new format, take this opportunity to build the learning opportunity of your dreams without the restrictions of tables, chairs, and four walls. What are the experiences and needs of your learners? What are the essential questions?
Ideas: Learning outcomes, digital resources, professional interaction, engage learners

2 - Consider the “You” Factor. Share your professional interests and enthusiasm. “You” make your course unique. Seek ways to create an online presence that conveys your professional personality and reflects a caring, supportive atmosphere. For instance, share your knowledge and love of reading through online book club discussions.
Ideas: Virtual office, focused videos, email updates

3 - Structure Learning Experiences. How do you and your students see the “big picture” of the course? Visualize the course content and activities. Create a centralized theme and an area for “the” course. Create an environment for student knowledge construction.
Ideas: CourseQuest, course diagrams

4 - Think Different. Explore totally new ways of approaching your course content and communications. Focus on REAL: Relevant, Engaging, Authentic Learning.
Ideas: Blogs, collaborative writing

5 - Model Techniques. Set expectations high and model outstanding performance. Demonstrate effective writing and discussion techniques. Share ideas for dealing with information overload.
Ideas: Labeled readings, sample forum discussion

6 - Differentiate Learning. Online courses provide an opportunity for assignment choices and options to meet individual interests and needs. Carefully follow student progress and provide feedback, guidance, and support. Encourage different ways to share understandings including text-based discussions, audio and visual sharing, and other forms of communication.
Ideas: Choice of discussion tracks, varied readings and assignments, multiple communication channels

7 - Establish Learning Communities. Create opportunities for students to develop supportive and collaborative online relationships.
Ideas: Cohort groups, collaborative assignments, open discussion areas

8 - Encourage Independent Learning. Seek ways to generate enthusiasm, expand thinking, and challenge students through reflective questions, varied resources, and professional connections. Continue to learn yourself and share your experiences.
Ideas: Extended readings, practical projects, professional online connections

apply itApply It!
Reflect on your own experiences taking online courses or using technology as an element in a blended course.
What elements did you find effective and ineffective?
Based on your experiences, what do you think makes a successful online course? Why?

Consider the following eight elements:
1 - Focus on Course Creation
2 - Consider the “You” Factor
3 - Structure Learning Experiences
4 - Think Different
5 - Model Techniques
6 - Differentiate Learning
7 - Establish Learning Communities
8 - Encourage Independent Learning

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