Importance of course design

This quote from a Tony Bates post  – a student guide to studying online (via Stephen Downes OLDaily) applies to all sectors, not just the post secondary which is his main focus 

 “Well designed courses do provide strong guidelines for when work, and what kind of work (writing assignments, tests or online class discussion), needs to be done. Poorly designed courses place much more onus on the student to organize their work, although a well designed program will deliberately encourage more and more independence and self-management as students progress through the program.”

Good examples of online courses

A teacher said to me recently that they wanted to be shown examples of “world’s best practice” in online teaching in a distance setting. There is plenty of material about the theory and technical “how to” documentation, videos and examples for particular tools (pick your learning platform, it does not really matter. What is not easy is to find freely available examples of putting it all together to produce a “best practice” course, unit, module or program. So much depends on context, starting with the needs of the learner. The following strategies work well in parallel to learning the mechanics of whatever online platform(s) is being used:

  1. Studying a range of examples – and reflecting on them with a critical friend. A good source is the Moodle Cool course competition site  which showcases specific aspects of best practice. The courses are open and can do much to add to the online teaching repertoire.
  2. Undertaking online courses from a variety of providers and reflecting on the experience from outcomes, content and process perspectives is a solid foundation – to be a good online teacher, you need to have experience as an online learner. This can be done in parallel to learning to teach online and be part of ongoing professional learning
  3. Being invited into a colleague teacher’s online classroom and having professional dialogue about why the learning is presented and structured as it is. You may not choose to use the same approaches but you can be sure to pick up some new ideas. Of course, you need to know someone or be in a workplace where online learning is core business.
  4. Working through the various self paced courses freely available  – a new one on the Moodle.org site that focuses on pedagogy rather than how to use the tools, is Teaching and Learning with Moodle (log in required)

For an overview of the territory, the most comprehensive site I have come across in this regard remains the Designing e-learning site from the Australian Flexible Learning Framework.