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Developing an Online Course

written by: Heather Marie Kosur•edited by: Heather Marie Kosur•updated: 1/6/2011

Effective development of online courses entail proper use of computer tools, designing the course, conducting impersonal coaching, regular interaction with students, monitoring student progress, and providing timely feedback. This article offers advice on designing an online course.

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    Online Course Design

    It is a fact that today more and more students want to enroll in online courses so that they can study from the comfort of their homes during flexible hours and without abandoning their present employment. But, most educators and teaching professionals are at a loss about how to develop effective online courses as the entire concept of online courses is still in its infantile stages.

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    Basic Prerequisites for Developing an Online Course

    The basic prerequisite of members of teaching faculty desirous of developing an online course is a personal computer with at least 64MB of RAM. The person must be fairly proficient in computer and Internet skills and be in a position to create proper documents and interact online with students. Faculty must be conversant with Internet Explorer 4.0 or later or Netscape Navigator 4.0 or later. Needless to say, the person must be an expert in the subject of the online course.

    It is preferable to buy software applications like Desire2Learn that will not only provide guidelines for teaching online but that also offer templates and ready-made model pages to simplify the online course development process.

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    Preliminary Preparations

    Nothing happens right without proper planning. Thus, an effective plan has to be designed and put in place to successfully prepare and deliver the course. Online courses should be delivered by using authoring software products. Select the software that ideally suits one’s requirements. The structure and design of the course materials must be prepared in a manner fit for online teaching, and the course content will need the prior approval of the concerned authorities.

    Suitable marketing arrangements will have to be made to create awareness among students about the availability of the course. Before giving final shape to the course materials and marketing plans, it is advisable to verify what others have done. Try to find out the successful formula and techniques that others have employed. But, this should not impact your course content and unique methods. As the course begins to run effectively, ways must be found to further refine and polish the delivery methods.

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    Attendance Problems

    • As is known, online coaching is asynchronous, and the faculty must be prepared to interact with students whenever the students need help.
    • Faculty must be familiar with handling email messages as email is the most convenient method of communication with students.
    • It is necessary that the faculty should know bandwidth and dial-up connections as these are the key factors for the faculty members to comprehend how the course material is transmitted and also provide a fair degree of flexibility in responding to students’ queries. Basic knowledge of how to upload a webpage could be a decided advantage.
    • Live chat, though preferable, need not be encouraged.
    • The faculty should enjoy good communication skills for the impersonal type of online teaching to be effective. The faculty must be able to sense whether the student reads and understands exactly what the teacher intended.
    • Faculty must clearly explain to students what to expect, the course design, the nature and periodicity of assignments, the seriousness of deadlines, and other important instructions. Even at the outset, the faculty must provide students with a comprehensive syllabus so that students are aware of the extent and nature of the course.
    • It is the responsibility of the faculty to provide students with timely feedback on assignments and grades and suggest areas of improvement. Online students need more frequent feedback than live classroom students.
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    Final Words

    Development of online courses comprises three different stages: the concept stage, the design stage, and the management stage. This course should basically be student-centered and provide a series of lessons and assignments, conduct periodic assessment of student’s progress, provide timely feedback to students and interact with the students at regular intervals either through email or live chat.