Great online instructors excel at making the online classroom feel like a face-to-face class. To accomplish this similarity, there are many tips to keep in mind as you design and deliver your course.
First of all what should a well designed class look like? An online course has many of the same components of an in-person course but with the added obstacle of not having an in person meeting time. Students access the course at their convenience.
- Ease of navigation
- Contact information
- Clear Weekly Announcements
- Clear Concise Expectations
- Forums for general questions
- Good content
- Reasonable due dates/deadline.
- Monitoring student access/ emailing as necessary if they are truant.
- Grade in a timely manner.
- Announcements notifying students that assignments have been graded, as well as, email students that are missing assignments.
Let’s look at some of these more closely
Create clear tabs in the Blackboard environment: Announcements, Contact, Course information, Syllabus, Course documents/content, Assignments, Discussion Forums.
Most of these tabs are self explanatory. Make sure you have a Welcome Announcement and encourage students to check out the syllabus and all the tabs; reminding them to ask questions through the Forum: Questions for Instructor with a descriptive title or use email for private concerns. I make it clear, that I check both the QFI and email daily, I make it a point to keep communication lines open.
If a student has not checked in by Day 2 of class, I email them. I require each student to post an introduction in the cyber Café Forum by Date 2 of class, assigning points to this activity. I also post a welcome introduction in this forum with a bit about myself.
Weekly Discussion Questions are clearly posted in the Discussion Tab with the number of posts required and points possible. The weekly discussion Questions close and disappear in the students’ view, after the due date.
I read each introduction and respond. I promptly grade each DQ with comments to each student about their posts, usually within 2 days of the due date and post my response as an additional Announcement. My response includes accolades for their comments and my answer as well; with praise for their good work and reminders to use spell-check.
Syllabus tab: include the Syllabus itself and a link for them to download and print it. My syllabus includes details about the course: Grade scale, expectations, how to contact me etc.
Course Content Tab: includes Folders for Weekly Units. Each Folder contains a Unit Overview, Short Lecture and /or power point as well as readings, links to you tube and guidelines for MLA and APA format.
Assignment Tab: includes the instructions for the Blackboard based Assignments, Abstract and Final paper and appropriate drop boxes, as well as Safe Assign.
One last important aspect in creating a personal feel, is to always and I mean always be available to listen and guide your students.