While transitioning face to face courses to online, instructors should modify the face to face activities to make best use of online communication technologies and pedagogies. Lecturing online should consist of both lecture and reading through synchronous and/or asynchronous learning activities. Online discussions should be considered a part of lecturing. Small group work should be established so that time on task is visible and measurable.This could consist of research, reading, and writing. Students can report back to the class and instructor through experiential learning activities. To expand on these recommendations, Turner (2005) offers a sample of on-campus learning activities and how they could be modified for the online learning environment.
● An online lecture may be an instructor’s commentary on the readings, with some links to illustrative images, media, or text.
● Small-group work may be a quick breakout in the asynchronous discussion area for a few days.
● Experiential learning activities could be online labs, interviews, activities within the community, and online field trips.
● The whole-class asynchronous discussion area can allow the instructor to expand upon the lecture and also facilitates post-lecture questions and student interactions.
What types of learning activities should I offer students during the week and how long should they spend on each activity in my online course?
Below is an example of how a week’s worth of learning activities (in a 16-week online course) may look for students. This scenario requires students to spend between 7 to 8 hours on assigned learning activities throughout the week.
- One hour for 3 mini lectures at 15 minutes for each mini lecture. The mini lecture can be presented through text or video and should cover 1 course topic at a time. Each mini lecture should contain links to course content and resources.
- One hour for students to review the mini lectures, navigate through linked resources, and post a brief constructed response to the weekly folder/area summarizing their understanding of the material.
- One hour to complete assigned readings.
- One hour for students to complete a quiz which assesses their understanding of the week’s learning objectives.
- Two hours for class discussions completed as an asynchronous learning activity. In this scenario, the instructor would assign a discussion topic on a discussion board and students would respond to the topic and respond to the responses of their peers.
- Set up procedures for small groups of students to meet synchronously in a chat room or in an asynchronous discussion area. This activity should consist of one to two hours per week leading up to the completion of a culminating event for the course such as a project or report.
What should I be doing with my time in my online course?
The role of online instructors can be grouped into four categories: pedagogical, managerial, technical, and social. Within these roles, online instructors have specific responsibilities before the course begins, during the first week of the course, throughout the course, and during the last week of course. A listing of best practices during these times is provided below.
Before the Course
- Review past evaluations to determine if enhancements for instructional strategies are required (pedagogical).
- Design the course and create/curate the course materials (pedagogical).
- Review the course using a preparation checklist (managerial).
- Send a welcoming introduction to the students (social).