by Lorraine B. Elder
Dr. Judith V. Boettcher has written Teaching Online for the First Time — The Quick Guide. She lists ten best practices for designing and teaching a course, and most are spot on, with the possible exception of
Best Practice 5: Use both synchronous and asynchronous activities
Using both kinds of activities works only if your online students know up front that’s an expectation. Many students think online inherently means asynchronous, so be clear in your class description about whether synchronous activities are included in the course, and be sure to list the dates and times of the synchronous activities on a class preview page so students can figure out even before they register whether their school, work, and life schedules will permit them to be available at those times.
To Dr. Boettcher’s list, I’d add a few more implementation tips that the e-Learning Center has learned from years of working with faculty in preparing online and hybrid courses.
1. Don’t try to create an online course on the fly while you’re teaching it. You won’t like it and neither will your students.
If your in-person teaching style entails glancing at your notes—or not—a few minutes before class starts and then winging it by speaking extemporaneously, you’ll be tempted to approach online teaching the same way. Don’t do it. You’ll fumble with the technology (or it will go down at an inopportune time); you won’t have an adequate list of resources and supplemental materials available for your students; you’ll forget to include important details in your assignment instructions, confusing your students and sparking a flood of emails or discussion posts asking for clarification; and in an asynchronous course, your students will be irritated if they’re ready to proceed but you aren’t because you haven’t yet built out the course. They’re busy people, too, who don’t want you wasting their time.
2. Posting PowerPoint presentations online does not constitute an online course, no matter how many slides you include.
A bunch of bullet points out of context and lacking a speaker to fill in the details isn’t what students need. Neither are slides packed with overstuffed paragraphs. If you need to write paragraphs to convey your information, put them on a web page, not on a slide. Put the bullet points on web pages, too, and also write the information you would have said aloud in a face-to-face presentation. Or include an audio recording (with transcripts!) of what you would have said to accompany the slides.
Don’t expect students to intuit what you meant by your cryptic, one- or two-word bullets. What’s obvious to you—an expert— won’t be obvious to them—novices. Explain yourself.
I’ll have more to say on the evils of PowerPoint in a future blog post.
It’s easy and desirable in an online course to include clips of rich instructional media, such as videos and audio. Be sure to include captioning or transcripts so that all students get the full benefit of the media without having to ask for special accommodations. Even students who don’t have disabilities often appreciate captions and transcripts. Also make sure your course can be navigated easily with a keyboard, not just a mouse, and check with your campus Disability Resources office to be sure that screen reader software can interpret your course material.
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Filed under: Accessibility, Instructional Design, Instructional Media | Tagged: Accessibility, asynchronous, caption, captioning, disability, media, online, PowerPoint, preview page, screen reader, synchronous, teaching, transcript | 2 Comments »