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DOs and DON'Ts

Research in online education has exposed successful strategies for setting up an online course. These strategies could help with student retention, engagement, and success within your online course. These strategies often transcend disciplines and remain affective among a variety of course offering styles. But keep in mind that every course has unique needs and it is up to the instructor or curriculum committee to determine what works best for the students. Take a look and the Dos and Don’ts below and see if you course aligns with current research in online education.


DO

Do create multiple videos explaining each component of the course syllabus in detail. Many instructors spend the first day of class reviewing the syllabus and explaining expectations for participation, behavior, and describing assignments and testing procedures in depth. Give your students a similar experience by breaking up your syllabus and creating brief, 5-minute videos describing each important piece of the course. This will not only provide a place for students to reference your expectations as they need reminders, but also may help reduce misunderstandings of expectations and could reduce the amount of questions you receive during the first few weeks of the course.

 

DON'T

Don’t post all of the content for the entire semester for students to see on day one of the course. This strategy overwhelms some students, making them feel there is no way they can complete it all. You would not hand students all of their homework assignments, exams, and lectures on day one of a traditional course, and it does not work well in an online course either. Instead, set up release dates for the content to release as the student progresses through the semester. This helps reduce student anxiety while keeping them on task and proactive.

 

DO

Do require an action for students to complete during week one of the course. Require students to complete a quiz, send you an email, post an introduction, participate in an icebreaker, or any other type of recordable action as soon as possible. Early participation in the course is connected to higher retention and student success in the course.

 

DON'T

Don’t have so many automated components of the course that you lose touch with how your students are doing. Remain constantly active within the course and with the progress of your students. Reach out to your students who are struggling. Send or post weekly updates that are unscripted and related to what the students are currently doing. Ensure your students know they can ask questions or contact you anytime. This includes answering emails within 24-48 hours and providing timely feedback on assignments.

 

DO

Do incorporate the three necessities for student engagement: 1) Instructor-student interactions, 2) student-student interactions, and 3) real-world applications to the content. Embedding these three components could help you retain your students,and help your students retain the information they gain during the course.

 

DON'T

Don’t change the course schedule. Having very clear deadlines for assignments is crucial for students’ time management of an online course. Changing deadlines often or delaying assignment feedback will add unnecessary stress to your students, which can lead to poor course reviews.

 

DO

Do include videos in your online course. 82% of faculty surveyed in a 2018 nationwide survey said videos increase student achievement within a course, and 92% said videos increase student satisfaction. As you integrate videos into your course, keep the videos around 5-minutes long to capture and hold student attention and provide an easy way to refer back to an important concept.

 

DON'T

Don’t try to simply recreate your face-to-face course in an online environment. Instead, focus on the objectives behind what you do in your traditional course. There may be a different way to meet those objectives in an online format. Embrace the possibilities that exist in the online world.

 

DO 

Do schedule time to prepare for your online course development. Creating an online course offering can be time consuming, so allow yourself time to make it exactly as you like. A poorly designed and implemented online course can cripple student success just as easily as poor instruction. It is difficult to say how long is customary to develop an online course. However, many instructors have developed high-quality courses within a 6-month timeframe.

 

DON'T

Don’t rely on exams as your only assessment. An assessment is essentially something students produce to demonstrate they are on track to meet, or have met, the objectives of the course. Allow students some options for how they are assessed or provide multiple different types of assessments. This strategy fosters a feeling of ownership of the content as students are allowed to insert their own creativity and learning styles into their assessments. For more tips on varying assessments, click here.

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