Strategies for Online Course Development to Promote Student Success

Strategies for Online Course Development to Promote Student Success

Kaye Shelton (Lamar University, USA), Diane Mason (Lamar University, USA) and Cindy Cummings (Lamar University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6046-5.ch012


In spite of online teaching having existed for almost two decades, many courses still mirror the traditional objectivist classroom. However, the literature clearly validates that a different approach must be taken for online course design that includes a pedagogical shift to constructivist methods that encourage transference of learning such as mastery learning, problem-based and project-based learning, authentic learning and assessment, and collaboration. This chapter presents elements of constructivist course design for increased online student engagement that can support online student success.
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Almost two decades later, Internet-based course delivery has continued to grow in popularity and in the quality of online course materials. Online teaching and learning is here to stay, much to the disappointment of some faculty who have yet to recognize the ability of online student engagement or benefits of teaching online. In the beginning, many online courses were nothing more than a few text documents and reading assignments. However, as the technology improved, so did course quality and the ability to retain online students. But it is important to remember that the technology should never be the deciding factor; appropriate pedagogy that centers more on the student and less on the instructor (Knowlton, 2000; Palloff & Pratt, 1999) should always be the focus of the course design (Puzziferro & Shelton, 2008) (see Table 1).

Table 1.
Paradigm shift from teacher to learner-centered instruction
Teacher-Centered InstructionLearner-Centered Instruction
• Knowledge Transmitted.
• Passive.
• Context Independent.
• Assessment Separated.
• Competitive.
• Knowledge Constructed.
• Active.
• Context Dependent.
• Assessment Integrated.
• Cooperative.

Note: From Hirumi, A. (2005). Systematic instructional design. In K. E. Dooley, J. R. Linder, L. M. Dooley, & A. Hirumi, (Eds.), Advanced methods in distance education (pp. 99-117). Hershey, PA: Idea Group Publishing. Reprinted with permission.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Authentic Assessment: A form of assessment in which students are asked to perform real-world tasks that demonstrate meaningful application of essential knowledge and skills ( Lombardi, 2007a ).

Transference of Learning: The ability for students to apply knowledge and skills from one context to multiple contexts ( Fogarty et al., 1991 , Byrnes, 1996 , Everett, 2009 , Gagné et al., 1993 , Perkins & Salomon, 1992 ).

Problem-Based Learning: An instructional (and curricular) learner-centered approach that empowers learners to conduct research, integrate theory and practice, and apply knowledge and skills to develop a viable solution to a defined problem ( Savery, 2006 , p. 12).

Collaborative Learning: Knowledge is co-constructed and shared among groups of learners as they work together on tasks such as solving a problem or creating a product ( Brindley et al., 2009 ).

Project-Based Learning: A systematic teaching method that engages students in learning essential knowledge and life enhancing skills through an extended, student-influenced inquiry process structured around complex, authentic questions and carefully designed products and tasks ( Buck Institute for Education, 2003 , p. 4).

Mastery Learning: A teaching concept where the student must reach a predetermined level of mastery on one unit before they are allowed to progress to the next. In a mastery learning setting, students are given specific feedback about their learning progress at regular intervals throughout the instructional period ( Davis & Sorell, 1995 , para. 7).

Constructivist Methodology: Consists of reality being created through human interaction and activity ( Kukla, 2000 ), the construction of knowledge ( Ernest, 1998 , Gredler, 1997 , Prawat & Floden, 1994 ), and understanding that learning is a social process affected by external forces during engagement in social activities ( McMahon, 1997 ).

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