How To Create Your First eCourse Like A Pro
If you are entering the world of eLearning as an instructor, you have probably read a lot about it, including a number of articles and posts that provide tips for creating, delivering, and evaluating your course. Still, you are nervous – it’s the first time for you, and you want to get it right. Here are 5 key tips that will help you create an eCourse like a pro:
1. Find Some Good Models.
Take a look at some other successful online programs and courses. There are many websites offering free coursework, such as Khan Academy and Academic Earth. You will be able to access a course similar in topic area to yours and get a feel for how it is structured. If you have already taken a great eCourse yourself, then you already have a good model.
2. Organize Your eCourse Content.
Whether you are offering a 3-week mini-course or a full-length semester class, the process of organizing your content will be the same. You will need to develop the following:
- Learner Outcomes (Course Goals).
What do you want the learner to know or be able to do at the end of your course?
- Course Overview.
A short written piece explaining the nature of the course and the course goals (a bit like a course description in a course catalog).
- The Units Of Study.
This is the course broken down into logical sections with learner outcomes for each unit.
- Your Lesson Plans.
The individual lessons within each unit, including objectives, learning activities, and a method for evaluating student mastery (assignments, a paper, quiz, etc.).
Suppose, for example, you are developing a course on personal finance. One of your units will probably be “Establishing A Budget”, with a very practical learner outcome – development of his/her own budget based upon all of the elements (income, expenses, necessities, near-necessities, luxuries, balancing, etc.).
This unit will probably include explanation of terms, the process for budget development, and then, of course, the evaluation component – an assessment of each student’s developed budget.
3. Content Delivery.
There are a couple of things to be mindful of as you plan your delivery. Learning activities must be student-centered and you should rely less on texts and lengthy reading assignments in favor of different modes of content delivery and skill practice. Take a lesson from the courses at Khan Academy – there are no textbooks.
- Engaging the student.
A lot of setting up your course will involve the “housekeeping” tasks of setting up your platform – apps, tools, dashboard, and methods of communication. After that, however, you must think long and hard about making your lessons engaging and enjoyable – yes, enjoyable. Learning is no longer a matter of quiet students sitting at desks and listening to a teacher drone on and one. Students need to interact personally with their learning, so keep that it mind. You need high quality materials –videos, props, tools, and apps– and you need enthusiasm when you are presenting. If you use podcasts, charts, infographics, slides, videoconferencing, etc., all should be planned with learner needs in mind, not yours. Again, you can learn much by studying how others develop activities that are engaging and motivational.
- Platforms for assignment completion and submission.
It goes without saying that you need an easy method for students to get their assignments to you. Using a platform like Google Docs is really a necessity. Be aware that your students will be at many different levels of technology skills, so you may have to point them to tutorials for using the platforms you have chosen.
- Lessons in small chunks.
While you want to maintain high expectations for your students, you do not want to so over-burden them that they drop out. Plan for small chunks of learning at a time. When they are successful with these smaller lessons, they are motivated to keep moving on.
4. Keep It As Social As Possible.
You don’t have a classroom in which students can interact. But you can emulate that classroom if you have the right tools in place. It is not good for students to feel isolated in their learning, so discussion boards, video conferencing and other tools like Skype should be incorporated.
Collaboration during learning has always been far more effective than individual, isolated learning. If you need help setting all of these things up, make certain that you get that assistance. You don’t want to have “fails” once the course is launched.
And as much as students should be interacting with each other, they should also be interacting with you. Students need relationships with their teachers as much as they need them with one other. The best method is to establish times when you are available to answer emails and times (office hours) when you are available via Skype or come other video platform. It is also important to check in on discussion boards and add your encouragement and support.
They need to feel that you want them to be successful. And when students need some individual assistance, you need to be available during your scheduled times.
5. Evaluation: This Is A Two-Way Street.
- Students should know from the beginning how they will be evaluated and what assignments/projects will bear what type of weight. If, for example, you are teaching a course on business writing, you may want to opt for a pre- and post-test situation. Final evaluation will be based on the degree to which they improve writing skills over the duration of the course, as opposed to “one size fits all” criteria. Other types of courses will involve established criteria by which all students will be assessed. And if you are using quizzes and exams, be certain that they are designed to test the learning objectives, not nit-picky details that don’t matter.
- You must have a method by which students can provide feedback to you. If there are portions of your course that “bombed,” you need to know that. A survey that is completed anonymously will give you the information you need to make course modifications.
eLearning can be an extremely effective method for today’s learner to develop content knowledge and skills. While it has not yet replaced the traditional classroom, many forecasters say it will. As technology continues to improve and provide the methods to make such coursework engaging, rewarding, and accessible, students will opt for it over the expense and inconvenience of brick and mortar classrooms. How fun to be a part of this evolution of educational delivery.