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«Developed by: April Bellafiore Director of Distance Learning Bristol Community College Rev. 7/9/2007 Table of Contents BCC Teaching and Learning ...»

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Best Practices for Online Course Design

Bristol Community College

Developed by:

April Bellafiore

Director of Distance Learning

Bristol Community College

Rev. 7/9/2007

Table of Contents

BCC Teaching and Learning Models





Student Option Enrollment

What makes a successful online course?

Course Architecture and Navigation

Structuring the Course Home Page

Start Here

Need Help?

Developing a Navigation Structure

The Course Tools Menu

Usability Testing

Online Course Design



Developing Course Content


Saving as RTF Files

Saving as PDF Files

Saving as HTML

Why can’t I just save as a Microsoft Word document?

Articles and Library Resources


PowerPoint Presentations

Printing from PowerPoint

Audio and Video Files

SmartBoard Content



Building an Online Community

Communicating with Students

Interaction Plan

What if students stop communicating?

Course Introductions

Class Norms

Instructor Profile

Using the Discussion Board to Facilitate Course Interaction

Question of the Week


Peer Editing

Small Group Discussions


Other Communication Mechanisms


Phone Conference

Online Collaboration Tools

Additional Resources


BCC Teaching and Learning Models The college offers a variety of course models designed to accommodate a diverse array of learning


Traditional Classes that meet face-to-face in a traditional educational setting at one of our campuses.

Supplemental Classes that meet in a traditional face-to-face format but which utilize online or internet based resources and learning tools.

Hybrid These courses blend traditional face-to-face with online learning. They meet in a traditional format and simultaneously use the online learning environment for coursework and extended interaction. Because of the hybrid model, students do not physically meet as a class as many times during a semester as a traditional course. Instead, hybrid classes meet virtually throughout the semester using the online classroom.

Web These courses do not physically meet on campus during the semester. All instruction and interaction occur through the online course environment. This type of course is designed for students who are self-motivated, self-directed and highly computer literate. Students are encouraged to complete the online self-evaluation test prior to enrolling in a 100% online course.

Student Option Enrollment Students can opt to take the course as a traditional lecture course, 100% online or as a hybrid course (student creates combination of lecture and Web based instruction in consultation with the instructor).

Instructors who teach classes which utilize an online component typically use eLearningBCC as a way to manage their course content. Currently, eLearningBCC runs off the WebCT CE 6 platform and provides instructors with a centralized online location to post syllabi, course notes, PowerPoint presentations and solutions files, conduct quizzes, tests and surveys, host online discussions and provide feedback to students.

While it is exciting to see so many instructors adopting eLearningBCC as a learning tool it is important to remember that the technology in and of itself is not going to automatically make a course “better.” “…studies on media research have shown that students gain significant learning benefits when learning from audio-visual or computer media, as opposed to conventional instruction; however, the same studies suggest that the reason for those benefits is not the medium of instruction, but the instructional strategies built into the learning materials.”1 Foundations of Educational Theory for Online Education, p. 1 Online Course Design 1 This document has been designed to provide instructors with ideas, best practices, tips and tricks, pedagogical models and instructional strategies for the successful adoption and integration of eLearningBCC as a teaching tool. Instructors who are teaching hybrid, student option enrollment or web

courses should also refer to the following documents for additional information and resources:

Sample Online Syllabus • Provides a template of recommended information hybrid and online instructors should include in their syllabi.

Netiquette Policy • BCC’s guidelines for appropriate behavior in the online environment.

What makes a successful online course?

A variety of factors need to be taken into consideration when teaching online:

Course Architecture and Navigation • Is your course site easy to use? Can students find what they are looking for? Is the content well organized and structured?

Online Course Design • How information is presented can have a huge impact on the usability and accessibility of the course. Is the choice of colors appropriate? Can students read the text that is presented? Does the course site suffer from information overload? Is the course designed with accessibility and disability issues in mind?

Course Content • There are many tools available that enable instructors to create engaging and interactive course sites. Instructors can easily add graphics, presentations, audio and video content to their course sites to accommodate diverse learning styles and bring active learning techniques into the online classroom.

Building an Online Community • A key factor in student success in online courses is the level of student-to-student and student-toinstructor interaction. Instructors need to design a high degree of interactive activities into their courses that provide for ongoing and timely communication and feedback and collaborative and cooperative learning opportunities.

In addition to the information and techniques presented in this document, the following online

references are indispensable resources:

Quality Matters has an excellent interactive rubric that provides instructors with best practices for high-quality online course development. Once you develop your online course test it against the rubric. How does your course rate? You can also ask a colleague to review your course using the rubric – this is great way to get external feedback on your course development.

The Rubric for Online Instruction is another resource that provides exemplary guidelines for online course and content development.

Online Course Design 2 Course Architecture and Navigation When designing your course site it is important to not overwhelm your users with too much information at one time. Think about the way students will navigate through your course. Does it make sense to group certain items together? What items are most important and should be accessible in just a few mouse clicks and what items can be located further down in the site navigation? In what ways can you simplify your navigation structure so that information is easy to find?

Structuring the Course Home Page The homepage is the very first page that students see when they access the course site. It serves as the launching point for accessing all of the content in the class. Think about how you want to structure your course content. Do you want to group content by week, topic or type?

Example 1:

Example 2:

Every course will be designed differently – the trick is to figure out what will work best for your class!

Online Course Design 3 Start Here Many faculty members like to include a “Start Here” or “Course Overview” or “Read Me First” icon on their homepage (see Example 1 on the previous page). This helps students identify what they are supposed to do first upon logging into the course site. This can be a place for you to provide information on your course structure and/or have “getting started” activities to ensure that all enrolled students have access to the course site and to begin building a community of learners in your course.

Getting started activities may include the following:

• Posting introductions to the discussion board

• Going on a scavenger hunt through the course site to locate specific information

• Filling out informational surveys

• Sending emails with attachments

• Uploading sample Assignment files

• Establishing group/class norms Below is an example of content that could be included in a “Start Here” area. Note: You are welcome to use any of the text in this document as you see fit!


Hello everyone and welcome to CIS112 Programming Logic!

To get started in this class, please do the following:

1. Read through the Syllabus and the Course Schedule. If you cannot access these documents your browser may be blocking the files from being downloaded. Please visit the BCC Wiki to learn how to tell your browser to download the files. This is an important skill that you’ll need for the class so be sure you understand how to access the course files before the first assignment is due!

2. Go to the Discussion Board and post to the Introductions Forum.

3. Complete the Informational Survey located under the Assessments button.

4. Write a short paper (2-3 paragraphs) that explains your interest in programming. Address why you are taking this course, what you want to learn and any initial questions or thoughts you have about taking this class online. Save the paper in.RTF format (rich text format) file and send it to me via the Mail feature as an attachment. Once I receive it I will send you back a response.

Please complete all of the above no later than next Monday, September 8 at 8am. If I do not hear from you by that time I will drop you from the class for non-attendance. Make sure you review the attendance policy in the syllabus so you fully understand the course expectations. If you do have any questions you can post them to the General Course Questions forum on the Discussion Board.

If you’ve never taken an online course before and have questions you should:

1. Visit the BCC Wiki. There are excellent resources available to help you if you experience technical questions or problems. Information on how to contact the distance learning help desk can also be found here.

2. Attend an eLearning Orientation Session. The college does hold “live” orientation sessions at the campus where students can drop in for help. Information on when and where these sessions will be held can be located on the Wiki.

Online Course Design 4 It’s a good idea to use the “Create File” option in eLearningBCC or insert this “start here” text as a header on the page rather than uploading a Word document that students will need to click on and download. Because some browsers initially block files from being downloaded students who are not internet savvy may not be able to initially access your welcome note if you upload it as a Word file. This is one of the most frequent problems that students have and can severely impact their ability to get started in a timely fashion on the course assignments.

For help on how to easily create files in eLearningBCC you can visit the BCC wiki yourself http://dl.bristol.mass.edu/wiki/index.php/Faculty_Resources or you can contact the CITE lab and we’ll walk you through the process.

Need Help?

It is highly recommended that you provide a link directly to the BCC wiki from your homepage. It will make your life much easier if you give students a quick and easy way to obtain help if they get stuck!

Developing a Navigation Structure Keep in mind that you do not need to put everything on your home page. eLearningBCC allows you to create folders and subfolders to clearly manage and organize information. For example, in one nicely architected course, students were presented with an Assignments folder on the homepage. When they

navigated inside that folder they were presented with two subfolders:

The instructor clearly articulates what students will find in each of these folders and also defines her expectations. When students click on the folder name they are presented with files dealing specifically with either Weekly or Course Assignments. Depending on the type and number of weekly assignments this instructor could have set up subfolders so that when students clicked on Weekly Assignments they were presented with a folder for each week.

–  –  –

You do have the ability to change the way the course menu looks. But, before you begin changing the colors, be sure to read the next section on color and accessibility!

Usability Testing Once you set up your site structure have a colleague navigate through the site. Ask them to locate specific information. Can they find it? If not, your structure may not be as clear as you originally thought. You can also ask for feedback from the students in your course – especially if you are teaching the class for the first time. If you do get feedback that your navigation isn’t as easy to use as you had hoped do not reconfigure your course navigation in the middle of the semester. Drastic changes to a course site in the middle of a term will likely cause confusion among your students. Instead, take any suggestions and incorporate them when you teach future sections of the class.

Online Course Design Color The colors you choose for your course menu and also for text/accent throughout the course site can have a big impact on the accessibility of the class and also how it/you may be perceived. The principles of

color theory that are applied to marketing consumer products can also be applied to course design:

Green used for an accounting or finance course may connote money or wealth.

• Natural colors such as greens and browns used for an earth science class could provide a holistic • feeling about the course and its connection with the environment. Conversely, using colors like yellow, red or blue (food dye colors) could imply that the course is “artificial” and disconnected from the natural world.

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