August 27, 2021
Online courses aren’t new to Higher Education with remote and distance learners being present in most UK institutions. There are likely already online learning resources and support available in your institution with experienced experts ready to advise. However, there are some things you can consider that assist with a smooth delivery of an online course.
Consistent course structure
For many learners the appeal of an online course is the convenience. They can fit their study around other commitments and work at their own pace.
Including a variety of asynchronous (not live) and synchronous (live) methods, discussion forums or group work can help give your course a consistent structure that will give students a foundation for their learning around a familiar timetable. For example, you might try hosting a seminar at 3pm every Wednesday to try and replicate the experience of your classroom instruction and give the students a sense of stability in their course. These sessions can also be easily recorded for anyone who is unable to attend or wishes to revisit the discussion.
Encouraging student engagement
After any live sessions it can be useful to follow up with some asynchronous discussion platforms to keep students engaged with the course content and each other. These online discussions, either through your VLE or other platforms can help facilitate group work, peer reviews, and be a safe space to submit questions or request clarity on any course content.
Group activities can be an effective way of keeping students engaged with the course and feeling connected to each other and your institution. However, when setting group work it’s important to keep in mind that not all students will have the same access to technology and systems. For effective group work, ensure your students have access to the digital tools needed for their collaboration and they have capacity to complete the activities in a timely manner.
Learning materials that work for you
You may already be providing your teaching resources online for your students, for example uploading your lecture slides. These materials are intended to supplement your teaching and could even help to make up for the loss of in person contact on campus. If there are frequently asked questions that often come up as in person queries, you could pre-empt these for your online cohorts and provide additional explanations or resources in your online materials. It’s important to remember to upload these documents in multiple formats, such as word documents and PDFs to support accessibility.
In some situations where your institution’s library may be closed or students are studying away from campus, relying on physical resources can be limiting. Where you can, include links to core texts and additional reading that can be accessed online. The OER (Open Educational Resources) is a repository of freely available online resources and may help to provide alternatives to physical formats.
Additionally, you could support your text-based learning materials with video or audio resources. These could either be made by yourself or located elsewhere online, but ensure it is accessible to all your students by including a transcript alongside any audio or video file.
Many institutions are already making use of Electronic Management of Assessment (EMA) through essay and portfolio submissions. However, there are many assessment types such as performances, vivas and controlled exams which aren’t so obviously supported by EMA.
There are alternatives available but any change in assessment delivery must always be thoroughly checked to ensure it is in line with internal assessment policy, technology is available to support it, and the impact on staff and students has been considered. If a change in assessment format must be made it can help the transition to keep it close to the original format. For example, services like online proctoring can ensure you are still able to deliver controlled exams in a secure environment.
In some instances, you may need to reconsider your assessment method completely, potentially choosing between formative or summative, or the delivery format. If the assessment method must change, consider the technologies available and if there are any courseware products that can support your style of assessment to ensure delivery and experience is effective for both yourself and students.
Whichever assessment method or format you decide on, it should always be clearly communicated to students and accessibility needs considered.
Online learning offers the incredible opportunity for more people to access education, and much like in person courses, the accessibility needs of the students must be considered and supported throughout the creation of the course.
Not only is ensuring content is accessible a fundamental principle of good course design, it is also a legal requirement, as per the equality act and recent legislation. The requirements ensure that digital resources used on campus or online are completely accessible. If you’re unsure where to start, the Home Office Dos and Don’ts of Digital Accessibility features practical advice for designing digital content.
Are you looking for resources to support the online delivery of your course?
Pearson’s course development experts can help. Their specialist knowledge can assist you in creating an immersive and engaging online course that is accessible to all students. Discover what Pearson’s course development services can do for your institution and get in touch for a consultation.