In online courses, learners don’t interact directly with their instructors; communication is often impersonal. Because of this, faculty development and tools become the most important part of launching and maintaining an elearning program. We coach faculty so they experience the joy and fulfillment of teaching.
Tools for Designing Elearning Courses
Student-Centric Learning Objectives
Learning objectives are the cornerstone to instruction. This may sound obvious; aren’t learning objectives just a standard ingredient these days? Don’t be so sure. Have you or your students ever taken an exam and thought, “This wasn’t covered in class!” Do you review new textbooks and problem sets and wonder, “What is this trying to teach?” Unclear objectives or poor alignment between objectives and instruction can create a fog of confusion around a course. And that fog gets thicker in the case of an online or blended course when the chances to clear the confusion are less frequent or timely.
At ClearAlignment, we begin by recommending in the CourseMap student-centric, measurable learning objectives for the learning experience. Objectives are both the goal and the roadmap. As a goal, students should emerge from the learning experience with the ability to demonstrate their new knowledge and skills through assessment and real-world application. As a roadmap, objectives provide a framework for selecting appropriate content, organizing the course, and targeting practice and assessment.
One of the most important things to keep in mind, and something that differentiates the elearning from classroom settings, is the role of student. With an elearning course you do not have control over how the content is received and processed by the learner. This means you cannot dynamically adjust the course to allow for better communication of your content. Because the students will most likely not communicate whether or not they are understanding the content, you are left in the dark.
As communication tools evolve, so do your skills and tactics for effective communication outcomes. ClearAlignment maintains a curated list with tips for their use and integration into your courses.
Instructional strategies include all approaches that a professor may take to engage students in the learning process actively. These strategies drive the planning and instruction as they work to meet specific learning objectives and ensure that their students are equipped with the tools they need to be successful. Effective instructional strategies meet all learning styles and the developmental needs of all learners. Professors should be equipped with a well-rounded arsenal of effective instructional strategies to maximize their effectiveness and to increase student learning opportunities.
ClearAlignment continues compiling sets of instructional strategies based on long-term and short-term activities for individuals and another set based on long-term and short-term activities for small groups.
Cost savings and technical capabilities alone do not seem enough of a reason to encourage the widespread adoption of Open Education Resources (OER) in contemporary higher education. There are lots of ways that you can lower costs for students, but some of these approaches can negatively affect student learning. The fact that learning materials now exist in digital formats does not necessarily mean that these learning materials can compete with traditional printed textbooks or other analog tools in terms of helping students learn. We have probably all tried some new-tech ways of doing some old-tech process and found that the old-tech way worked better. So what about OER makes them a good choice for adoption in the classroom?
A simple answer: the possibilities for pedagogical change that OER makes explicit. Student-centered pedagogy is clearly in fashion at the moment. But what does it mean to call an educational experience “student-centered”? In many cases, people seem to conflate student-centered pedagogy with a customer service model aimed at student satisfaction. Often, we hear “student-centered” trotted out in policy discussions aimed at eliminating bureaucratic obstacles for students (for example, making transferring credits between institutions easier), or in faculty conversations about teaching methods. In the latter, faculty often talk about increasing class discussion and refocusing classroom dynamics away from traditional lectures and toward a more interactive model. But in many cases, these new “student-centered” policies do little more than respond to market demand, and these “student-centered” pedagogies do little more than acknowledge a baseline student voice as part of the course.
ClearAlignment is working on ways to have OER provide a more robust vision for centering our students in their educational experience. Stay tuned.
Grading real world activities and assessments can be very time-intensive. ClearAlignment recommends using rubrics to relive that time pressure. Rubrics are checklist tools that lists evaluation criteria for an assignment and ensures consistent and impartial grading. Rubrics help students organize their efforts to meet the requirements of an assignment. If you haven’t experienced the joy of rubrics, ClearAlignment can help you out.
Below are examples of ClearAlignment rubrics customizable to your context.
- 360 Rubric
- Discussion Board Rubric
- Group Project Rubric
- Resume Rubric
- Role Play Rubric
- Team Project Rubric