This is the sixth in a series of blog posts looking at my experiences of developing online learning materials. Hopefully sharing these experiences is helpful as people work to adapt and deliver their own online training. As always, this blog post only represents my own views and experiences with the tools I used.
What is it?
Online courses are becoming an increasing fact of life for anyone who teaches. Rather than discrete sessions, an online course involves a programme of content designed to be followed over time towards an ultimate goal.
Creating an online course - whether starting from scratch or adapting existing content - is a very involved process and not one that should be rushed. No matter how many times you have delivered a session in-person before, you will need to think carefully about translate this to online delivery. The mistake that a lot of people make it to replicate the content they usually deliver in person without thinking about how this will work in a different format. I speak from experience - the observations below come from my own project and the things I did wrong so please don't think I got everything right straight away. I freely admit that I'm still learning!
How are we using it?
There are far too many elements involved in building an online course to discuss in one blog post and it depends a lot on the type of programme you want to deliver. Instead, I'm going to outline some of the key decisions you need to take when planning your course:
- Synchronous or asynchronous? These are terms more of us are familiar with now but as a recap - do you want people to take the course online together or do you want them to work at their own pace. This is one of the biggest decisions you will need to make so make it early.
- What is the outcome you're aiming for? You are likely to want people to learn something but is this theory based or practical based? Think about what people need to be able to do and then work backwards from that when planning. For more information on this you should explore the work of Wiggins and McTighe on Backward Design. Alison Hicks does great work for librarianship in this area and this presentation from LILAC 2018 (with Charlie Inskip) has some useful information.
- Think carefully about potential platforms. I used LibGuides as this was the best I had access to within the confines of my project. My key concerns were being able to add University branding and have a course that was as open as possible but your considerations may be different so investigate all options thoroughly.
- How will you evaluate success or (more importantly) will you do this at all? This will depend on the nature of your audience. The Research Ambassadors is intended to be an OER (Open Educational Resource) meaning that anyone can take part in any way they like. Assessing this myself wasn't practical in the same way it was when it was a defined audience so I used self-assessment activities instead. If you are working with a smaller group then you may want to use more formal assessment methods.
- How will you ensure accessibility of your materials? Anyone designing online materials needs to make sure that these are available to as many people as possible. You need to think about transcripts for videos, al text for images and alternative formats for content - and that's just for starters. You won't get everything right first time but you should put accessibility at the top of your list.
- Following on from the above, remember that designing a course is an iterative process. Things will change over time as new sources and formats become available and as your own learning develops. Build in feedback to your course and act on it where you can. There will be changes to be made but usually if people are giving you feedback it means they are invested in improving your course in some way so you must be doing something right!