Online Course Design

An analogy

When you teach online, the environment you’re building in and the tools available to you are different than they are when you teach face to face.  Think of building a course as being like building a house.  If you build a house in Florida, you build it one way.  If you build it in the Pacific Northwest, you have to build it another way.  The goal stays the same (you want a house), and there are many similarities, but the houses are a bit different and you use different tools and processes to build.

It’s the same with online and hybrid learning.  You want to create a course, but the course is not going to look just the same as it would in a purely face-to-face setting, and the tools and processes you use to build it likewise are not the same.  So don’t just take the processes and tools you use to create a face-to-face course and transfer them over.  Start with the big picture, work backwards, and choose the right tool for the task.

Start with the big picture. 

Don’t start with the technology tools. Rather, start by identifying your overall goals for your course and then state these using SWBATs.  SWBAT stands for “Students will be able to.”  A SWBAT is followed by a verb.  Use verbs such as analyze, synthesize, recite, explain, construct, identify, apply, remember…  Look at Bloom’s taxonomy to get verb ideas.  Here are some examples:

  • Students will be able to explain the impact of COVID-19 on global trade.
  • Students will be able to edit videos using a certain editing tool.
  • Students will be able to contrast Calvin and Luther’s views of the sacraments.
  • Students will be able to buy pastries at a bakery speaking only French.

Work backwards.

Once you’ve got your SWBATs, think about how you’re going to get your students from where they currently are to the place where can say “I am able to…”  Remember that to get to the point where the SWBAT is accomplished, the students probably don’t just need to gain head knowledge, but also to develop attitudes, skills, and interpersonal skills.  At this point ask yourself, “What knowledge, attitudes, skills, and interpersonal skills do my students need to develop in order be able to fulfil the SWBAT I’ve chosen?”  Then figure out what learning activities will help your students bridge the gap between what they can do now and what they need to be able to do by the end of the quarter.