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Instructional Design & Support

Analyze Viability of an Online Course

An online course creates an entirely different learning environment that requires the instructor to rethink the pedagogy and learning strategies for the Internet medium. Analysis and planning become crucial in online course development. It is important to determine why an online course is needed, what it will take to teach an online course, and what resources and support are available. The next step is to clarify course-level student learning objectives. You’ll complete your analysis by determining possible online course delivery methods and technology requirements.

Assess the Need for an Online Course

The first question for the aspiring online instructor to ask is Why is an online course needed?” Cost savings is not going to be an answer, at least at the beginning. A quality face-to-face course must undergo a complete transformation to be successful in the online learning environment. This requires additional faculty time to develop and teach the online course, faculty training, technology resources and support, and logistics management.

For a department, possible reasons for online courses may be:

  • offering a course to geographically dispersed students
  • diversifying course delivery methods to attract a wider and more diverse student audience
  • offering an online course as a solution for “bottleneck” traditional courses.

NOTE: Talk with your Department Head first if you are considering developing an online course. Getting your Department’s approval and support at the very beginning of the process is crucial.

Instructors may decide to teach online to:

  • have flexibility of their teaching schedule and location
  • explore innovative teaching methods enabled by various technologies
  • improve their employment opportunities – many schools now value the online instructor experience.

Students may decide to take an online class because of:

  • flexibility of study time and location
  • convenience of studying at their own pace
  • 24/7 access to online learning resources
  • better-suited online learning environment and learning methods, for example, ability to review difficult lectures several times or an opportunity to engage in class discussions at a higher cognitive level.

Assess Your Readiness for Online Teaching

Teaching an online course requires all the skills and knowledge necessary to teach in a classroom…and then some. If you are new to teaching online or a seasoned online instructor seeking new ideas, it will be wise to take advantage of all resources available to you, including Instructional Support resources and training offered by UTK’s Office of Information Technology (OIT).

Time for Action

Are you ready to teach online? Click on the link below for a list of questions that will help you identify your weaknesses, strengths, and opportunities in becoming a successful online instructor.

Getting Ready for Teaching Online: Self-Assessment

Q1. Do you have extra time in your current workload?

Yes

Good! Proceed to the next question.

No

Consider blocking out extra time on your weekly calendar of job activities when you decide to start teaching online – at least 6 months before the course launch and during the online course. Designing an online course is not a simple matter of putting the course materials online. It involves transforming the course for the online learning environment, which will require additional time to plan, design and develop the course, learn new technologies, facilitate class communications, provide student feedback, review and revise the course, and more. In general, faculty members report a considerable increase in time to develop a first, and even second, pedagogically-sound online course.


Q2. Do you plan your course sessions well in advance?

Yes

Good! Proceed to the next question.

No

The online course requires the instructor to plan well ahead everything that might happen in the virtual classroom. Even improvisations and emergencies must be planned for due to the technology-mediated nature of the classroom. You will have to plan and devise methods and procedures for content delivery and revisions; class communication, interactions, and assignments; grading and record keeping, student and course feedback; and contingencies such as failed technology, changing schedules, topics and assignments.


Q3. Are you detail-oriented in managing your class, for example, sticking to deadlines and giving detailed instructions on the assignments?

Yes

Good! Proceed to the next question.

No

Attention to details and time management such as detailed instructions for student assignments, tracking and encouraging students who are not participating, setting and following the deadlines are some of the most important skills for a successful online instructor. Consider Faculty Focus’ Eleven Course Management Strategies and several articles on time management.


Q4. Are you comfortable communicating in writing with internet-based communication tools?

Yes

Good! Proceed to the next question.

No

Much of the communication (student-to-student, instructor-to-student) in an online course happens through emails, discussion forums, blogs, chats and other electronic means of communication. Instructor’s professional, clear and concise writing as well as the ability to convey personality and communication nuances verbally becomes extremely important in an online course.


Q5. Have you taken an online class?

Yes

Good! Proceed to the next question.

No

You might consider taking an online course of your interest: request to audit an online course taught by a fellow instructor in your college or enroll in one of several free MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) courses such as Coursera or edX. Experiencing the online learning environment as a student will give you a better insight on what might work and what might not work in an online course. Were you confused in the course? If yes, what would help you feel more oriented? Did you feel isolated in the course? If yes, what would make you feel part of the course? How often did the instructor communicate with the class? What techniques did the instructor use for communication? Observing an online course would give you a lot of “food for thought” to develop your own online course.


Q6. Are you familiar with teaching methodologies?

Yes

Good! Proceed to the next question.

No

In the online learning environment, it is important to know several course design and pedagogical concepts such as backward course design, Bloom’s taxonomy, and active learning. Please visit the Course Design section that will guide you through the instructional design process of developing an online course. Contact OIT HelpDesk and request help designing an online course. Contact Teaching and Learning Innovation for support with student-centered teaching methodologies in a traditional classroom.


Q7. Are you familiar with online teaching methodologies?

Yes

Good! Proceed to the next question.

No

If in a regular classroom you teach through lectures and exams-type sessions, you will need to reconsider this pedagogy in the online learning environment. The online course requires a lot of additional skills from the instructor, for example, creating and fostering an online learning community, facilitating online discussions, and developing online assessments and assignments. OIT offers several opportunities for developing your skills in online instruction: individual consultations, presentations for the departments, assistance with the development of your course’s online components, instructional support for online course delivery systems, classroom technologies, and instructional technology workshops. Contact OIT HelpDesk to learn more about these services.


Q8. Have you used a learning management system for teaching a course?

Yes

Good! Proceed to the next question.

No

You might want to familiarize yourself with the tools that Online@UT, the UTK learning management system powered by Canvas, offers. Online@UT provides a secure anytime, anywhere learning environment for course content that is accessible only to course instructors and enrolled students and brings together the tools that are necessary to deliver highly effective online instruction. Check out the OIT Training page to see what training workshops are available.


Q9. Do you have basic computer skills and knowledge of common computer terminology, e.g., web browser, operating system, URL, and plug-in?

Yes

Good! Proceed to the next question.

No

You might benefit from learning some basics of computer skills and terminology. Knowing how to clear your browser’s cache, download and install software, and change audio settings will help you identify and troubleshoot basic issues. A good place to learn computer basics and advanced skills is Lynda.com, UTK subscription. OIT Knowledge Base offers a wide array of quick solutions for the issues that you can resolve on your own. If you cannot find a solution, please contact the OIT HelpDesk.

The questions in this assessment were adapted from PennState’s Faculty Self-Assessment: Preparing for Online Teaching.

Resources

Determine Student Learning Objectives

As you start planning your online course, review your course goals and articulate them as student learning objectives (SLOs). Student learning objectives will drive the design of your online course; they will serve as the basis for determining and prioritizing course content, learning activities, assignments, and assessments. Read about benefits of clear learning objectives for students’ learning (pdf).

  • Course Goals describe broad, general learning outcomes. Example: The goal of the faculty training program is to improve the quality of UTK courses by redesigning them using one of three delivery methodologies: flipped, blended, and online.
  • Student Learning Objectives are statements of specific performance that a student is expected to demonstrate. The objectives are focused on the learners and on what they will be able to do as a result of the course. Example: The training participants will be able to redesign their course site by applying the knowledge and tools of instructional design.

Writing Student Learning Objectives

When writing SLOs, use active verbs and specific words that describe what students should be able to demonstrate at the end of the course.

The Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives is particularly useful when writing SLOs because it associates particular verbs with each level of learning. Student learning objectives may span across three domains of learning (cognitive, affective, and psychomotor), each with a range of levels of learning as described by Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Time for Action

Make a list of course-level student learning objectives. For help, please use the resources below.

Resources

Get Familiar with Online Course Delivery Systems

UTK course delivery systems: Online@UT and LiveOnline@UT

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, utilizes the Canvas (asynchronous) and the Zoom (synchronous) systems to deliver courses in an online learning environment. The UTK-branded name for Canvas is Online@UT. The UTK-branded name for Zoom is LiveOnline@UT. All students, faculty, and staff have access to Canvas and Zoom.

Access to Online@UT

As long as you have an active NetID and password, you can access the Online@UT system via the Login to Online@UT button. Notice that the Online@UT web page contains a lot of useful information both for instructors and their students.

Time for Action

  • Do a quick system check to assess whether your computer system meets the requirements of Canvas and Zoom.
  • Login at Online@UT website to make sure you have access to the system. If your login fails, please contact the OIT HelpDesk.

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