Creating an online course is like taking deciding to finally paint the outside of your house. What initially looks pretty straight forward ends up taking three times as long and results in even more work because of newly found issues. While encountering hurdles during elearning development can’t be avoided completely, you can take some steps to help smooth out the entire process.
First, it’s important to start with a roadmap for your online course. Generating a detailed syllabus on paper (okay, or Microsoft Word :)) is a good place to start. This syllabus can include a lot of items, but you should be sure that your online course includes some of (if not all of) the following:
1. Course Outline
2. Teacher Contact Information
3. Required Texts/Resources
4. What the students can expect to learn
5. Grading policy
6. Anticipated time commitment
7. Tips for success
8. Required downloads
9. Resources for students with disabilities
When students arrive into your virtual learning environment, you should set-up an introductory questionnaire or forum for them to introduce themselves and to ask any initial questions. It’s a great way to begin the process of online collaboration as well. Although not mandatory, this would also be a great place to include a help forum so students know where to go if they have any questions, or need your assistance.
Topics on your LMS should include a course overview before students enter into the actual lessons and quizzes. The course overview can be as elaborate as you like, include videos, printable instructions, documents, and so forth. The point here is that you want to set the expectations. For example, if you have regular quizzes or assignments, schedule them to be due at the same time and day of the week. This will help student’s avoid any big surprises and minimizes the chance of due date errors.
A word to the wise: if you are posting content or videos, ensure that there is ample written instruction and explanation about the content and purpose of the inserted media. Some students are visual learners and may just jump right into the content, while others want to understand more detail before they begin reviewing the material. When possible, offer the content via audio, video, and text so that multiple learning styles are addressed.
Speaking of media, it’s a good idea to insert images, and graphs along with any text heavy lessons. No one wants to read a webpage with a bunch of content. Break up the lesson naturally; supplement with a PowerPoint, funny cartoon, video, or something else.
The greatest part of introducing a blended learning approach to your classroom is that you can encourage (and manage) communication. Ask students to leave feedback on course or lesson content, or even ask specific questions for them to leave their feedback or response. If you have a forum, point students in that direction as well. If you want to have more control in the initial stages, require that you manually approve any comments so that you can ensure they are relevant. Over time you can remove this restriction, but it’s a great way to start as everyone comes up to speed with the expectations.
Finally, when it comes to grades, ensure that you have a secure way for students to access their markings. They should be password protected and only accessible by using their unique ID.
There are many avenues to setting up a blended learning for your classroom – and leveraging an LMS is a simple way to get started quickly. Using something like the LearnDash WordPress LMS plugin is an easy, and affordable way to get started. If you are interested in learning more, contact us with your questions. We are experienced in setting up learning management systems, and would be more than happy to provide you guidance along the way.