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The Basics of Preparing your Course for Online Delivery

One of the most common points I emphasize when training faculty to use instructional technology, is that technology matters very little when it comes to quality online instruction. Rather, quality online courses start with solid pedagogy and teaching best practices.

"The technology itself is not transformative. It’s the school, the pedagogy, that is transformative."

“Quality instruction means that the teacher can effectively engage students in the learning process and relay relevant knowledge. ... Quality instruction means the delivery of an instruction in a way that evokes students' interest, critical thinking, and learning in a meaningful way.”

Passive vs. Active Learning

Passive learning is a one way transfer of information. In higher education, lectures and assigned readings are perhaps the most common examples of passive learning, with a lecture still being a standard method in many classrooms. A lecture has its advantages. It allows the lecturer to presents a variety of information in a preplanned, concrete and organized way. It is also scalable – the same lecture can be used for a classroom of 20 students, as well as 200. However, content may be perceived as boring and unrelatable. Although there are techniques to assess student comprehension, such as polling, it may still be difficult to get an accurate snapshot and adjust the course of the lecture in a large classroom.

Active learning, on the other hand, increases critical thinking, provides frequent feedback on a student’s comprehension of the material, and gives the student a larger role in their learning environment. Several key points for effective learning are identified through AdultActive and Social Learning Theories:

  • Adult students must be able to relate to content based on their needs and lived experiences.
  • Students need opportunities to explore and reflect on what they have learned.
  • Students learn from each other, via observation, imitation and modeling.

Active learning activities may include:

  • Case analysis, problem solving
  • Projects/brainstorming
  • Group work
  • Discussions
  • Reflections/blogs/wikis
  • Self-directed study/research

Adapting for Online Delivery

The purpose of instructional technology in general is to support teaching practices. Learning management systems (LMS) in particular may vary in looks, layout and popularity. However, all LMS systems have the same basic objective – to support teaching practices and enhance the learning process of students. Most LMS will have a set of built-in tools to support a wide variety of teaching and learning activities, such as announcements, rich text editor to create content, ways to embed video and audio, quiz and discussion forum functionality, assignment submission, and grading, options, and many others.

“The main objective of Learning Management Systems is to enhance the learning process.”

Regardless of technology used, however, there are several things to remember when transitioning to online course delivery:

  • Organize the course in a predictable and consistent manner – by week or by topic (e.g. Week 1 – Topic 1)
  • Include an overview of learning objectives, activities, assignments and assessments for each week.
  • Make sure to use a variety of instructional modalities for learning and assessments.
  • Provide clear instructions and grading rubrics for all activities, as well as due dates for deliverables.
  • Provide a venue for students to report any course related issues or concerns.
  • Make sure all students are aware of and have access to all relevant course and school policies, such as grading, academic honesty, technical and academic support, disability and accessibility, etc.


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