Working adults are becoming an increasingly large percentage of the college population; with their busy schedules, they are insisting on “more flexible and convenient learning options” (NBEA, 2002a). Additionally, greater numbers of students are entering college having already acquired extensive computer and Internet experience. As a result of these changes in college populations, an increasing number of postsecondary institutions are offering online instruction to meet students’ educational needs. In fact, the U.S. Department of Education recently reported that nearly 2.9 million students enrolled in college-level distance education courses in 2000-01, more than double the enrollment of 1997-98 (CNN.com, 2003). As distance learning is gaining acceptance and more students are enrolling in online courses, the need for quality online programs is also increasing.
Strategies For Teaching Online Courses
Spend Time Planning
The first and most important step for developing an effective online course is careful planning (White & Myers, 2001). Prior to developing the course, it is a good idea for the instructor to look at other online courses and talk to experienced instructors of online courses to determine how to set up and actually teach or facilitate an online course. During the planning stage, it is important that the instructor define course goals and objectives, decide on course content or online learning resources, determine how the course content will be organized, decide on evaluation procedures, and identify interaction procedures to be used in the class.
Be Knowledgeable of Online Course Technology
By being familiar with the software and hardware used in the class and working through all online class components beforehand, the instructor will be able to answer students’ questions—both content-related and technical—promptly and with expertise. The instructor will also be able to anticipate student needs and questions before the class begins, which can prevent student problems and frustration.
Consider Using A Course Management System (Cms)
If teachers have access to a server but possess limited time or technical expertise, they might consider using a commercially developed course management system (CMS) to set up and manage the online class. A major advantage of using a CMS is that instructors do not need to be well versed in programming or be computer experts. If they can create in HTML format the various documents that they want to make available to students (objectives, lecture notes, study guides, exams), uploading them into the system is a very simple procedure. Additionally, if the online course is one that the instructor has already taught, much of the materials, tests, quizzes, and other content will have been previously developed (Lewis & Blair, 2003).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Threaded Discussion: Asynchronous communication via the Internet whereby data can be transmitted intermittently or at any time and at irregular intervals. An example would be e-mail, whereby a message can be sent at any time by the user and read at any time by the recipient.
Online Course: A class taught to students via Internet or in an online learning environment. Students access class objectives, lecture notes, instructional materials, and exams via Internet. Students and instructor interact online via e-mail, chat rooms, and threaded discussions. Also known as Web-based classroom, cyber-classrooms, e-learning, virtual education, and distance learning. Once considered a fad, online learning has developed into a “‘just-in-time’ hybrid of teaching any time, any place” (Crews, 2003).
HTML Document: A document embedded with HTML codes or tags that specify how the document will be displayed when viewed on the Internet.
Online Learning Resources: Any resource available on the Internet in an online educational environment. It might be HTML documents such as course or chapter objectives, lecture notes, assignments, or answers to chapter questions. It might be audio or video lessons, interactive exercises or exams, or documents providing links to other Web sites.
Audio File: A computer file that contains audio instruction or explanation. It might also contain graphic images that correlate with the audio.
Course Management System (CMS): A server-based program that provides an easy-to-use tool for online course development, course delivery, and course management. Well-known providers such as WebCT and Blackboard offer these bundled, off-the-shelf online learning environment systems.
Orientation Session: A first meeting between instructor and students during which students meet the instructor and become familiar with the hardware and software that they will need and the level of computing proficiency required for an online course. This meeting also provides an excellent opportunity for students to meet the instructor and each other, ask questions, and become acquainted with course logistics.
Microsoft Producer: A program available to Microsoft PowerPoint users that allows the production of audio files. It also allows the use of PowerPoint presentations or captured screen shots to accompany audio explanations. (Microsoft Producer can be downloaded from www.Microsoft.com)