Adapting Your On-Ground Course For Online Instruction
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How To Adapt An On-Ground Course For Online Instruction

"If learners think it looks bad, you may have lost a good percentage of the battle in getting them to pay attention." - Patti Shank

You’ve taught on the ground, you have a standard syllabus, readings, lectures, and assessments for your course, and now you have to adapt all for online instruction. This can be a daunting task, particularly with courses that are notoriously known for having to content heavy lectures with limited group activities and class discussions. Conversely, there are courses where instruction and assessments are dependent on student interaction and group discussions. These can also pose a challenge, as instructors struggle to make the activities and assignments interactive and collaborative. Thus, some common questions you might have when making the transition to online learning are:

  • How can I make the learning experience more engaging for students?
  • How can I promote critical reasoning without face-to-face interaction?
  • How much technology should I use in my course?

Keeping in mind that an engaging environment or the lack of it can make or break your course and, significantly, impact student achievement and overall learning, here are some ways in which you can make this transition a smoother one while promoting a positive learner experience.

1. Build Group Assignments And Discussions

Group work creates a sense of community and collaboration and encourages interaction with the course. Having online discussions promotes a higher-level analysis of the course content, ultimately promoting critical reasoning and also decreasing the sense of isolation caused by online learning.

2. Make Assignments/Discussions Relevant To Real-World Problems

Student engagement will increase, and critical reasoning will be put into practice if the assignments or problems you use in the course have some real-life value. Students are more likely to voluntarily want to know how to work through problems when they can find a purpose to that process or concept. Thus, higher level learning is achieved, and student engagement is maintained.

3. Allow Opportunities For Self-Assessment

Providing opportunities for self-evaluation through different types of formative assessments increases student engagement. Students will visit the course more often and find themselves more motivated to submit work when they have opportunities to view their mistakes, work on them, and ultimately submit a summative assessment that’s more representative of their knowledge and skills. Students will also be more likely to try harder in the next section, knowing that they will have multiple attempts to improve their mastery of the topic.

4. Choose Appropriate Assessments

Online courses require more structure, which, in turn, forces you to be more selective about the types and amount of assessments you use. A key feature that will help you narrow down your assessments are, of course, your course objectives. Every assessment should have a purpose towards helping students meet the course outcomes. Also, be selective about the difficulty of your assessments. You shouldn’t have five assignments testing lower-level learning skills, and one or two addressing high-level skills; rather, choose assessments that will guide students through the learning process and will help them achieve high-level learning. When students find value in their assessments, they find value in participating and ultimately learning.

5. Alternate Lecture Forms

Online teaching can take a variety of shapes that adjust to diverse teaching and learning preferences. Although at first, the opportunities might seem limited, there are multiple ways you can deliver engaging lectures and create practice opportunities without the need for face-to-face interaction. Some of the options are:

  • Screencasts
    Record your screen while solving a problem or visually explaining a concept.
  • Voiceovers
    Talk through or insert yourself in a presentation. This decreases crowding in the slides while increasing user engagement.
  • Branching scenarios
    A great tool for reasoning skills, this activity has students put what they’ve learned to practice in multiple decision-making scenarios that build on each other.

6. Use Appropriate Technology

In an age where a plethora of technological resources is at our disposal, we have to be selective about the ones we choose. The aim should always be for pedagogically relevant resources which add value or enhance student learning. Just because something is available does not make it a good choice, and you don’t want to toss around technology for the sake of it. Students can quickly become overwhelmed by a misuse of resources which will, in turn, limit student engagement and decrease learning. Therefore, use technology that aids in the understanding of the content, avoiding repetition.

You can apply all or some of the suggestions to your course, keeping in mind that student learning and critical reasoning are the main objectives.

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