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.
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.
- Penn State University. (2008). Faculty Self-Assessment: Preparing for Online Teaching. (Enable Flash Player)
- Varvel, V. (2007). Master online teacher competencies. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 10(1).
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.
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.