Best Practices for Creating an Online Course

In today’s digital age, knowing how to create an effective online course is an essential skill for any educator. Instructors may find that certain subject matter lends itself well to an online course and that the flexible format frees up valuable time for supporting students and improving course content. 

When designing an online course, how can educators compensate for the lack of in-person connection and take advantage of the benefits that come with this format? Below are best practices for creating an online course that will help you accomplish your learning objectives and keep your students engaged:

Design with your end goal in mind.

Before focusing your attention on the tech tools available and the format of your course, start by clearly defining your learning objectives. What should your students know or be able to do by the end of this course? How will you measure their progress along the way? Each interactive activity and engagement technique you use should serve a specific purpose in moving your students toward these learning goals. 

Provide a clear course structure.

Once you have identified a learning destination for your students, lay out a clear path for them to follow. Make sure students know what is expected of them every week—what video lectures they need to watch, what assignments or exams they need to complete, and where to find key resources. Err on the side of repeating details. For example, above each video lecture, you can list the due date for viewing the lecture, and below each video, you can spell out the next element in the course and the next due date. You can also highlight the specific learning objectives that each lecture or assignment is meant to cover.

Provide clear directions for each assignment and assessment.

Publish step-by-step guidelines or a rubric for each assignment, including details on the required format and how to submit it once complete. Clarify how students should ask you questions whether via email, by posting a comment in a discussion board, or during virtual office hours. 

The same is true for discussions, group activities, and exams. If you want discussion posts to follow a specific format or for students to reply to their peers, create a checklist of steps for students to follow. If you expect that students will take their exams at the same time, perhaps by joining a videoconferencing call so you can proctor their test, outline that expectation in your instructions.

Encourage your students to connect.

Instructors can still cultivate a sense of community in an online environment. Consider introducing an icebreaker as one of your first class assignments. Students can post their responses in a discussion board or by uploading brief videos of themselves sharing their replies. 

Incorporate interactive elements into the learning process by assigning group projects or discussion groups to go over case studies and by prompting students to respond to one another through discussion boards. 

Create frequent checkpoints to test student learning.

Since you won’t have the benefit of seeing students in the classroom, you will need to rely on other methods of testing student comprehension. Discussion boards make it easy to run a simple knowledge-based quiz or ask a real-life application question to see if students are internalizing the material. 

Choose robust EdTech tools.

By following the steps above, you will have created many of the conditions for student success. But in an online environment, you also need the right technology to facilitate connection, provide clarity, and administer assessments. A comprehensive software platform like Leo helps guide students through the learning process and provides educators with crucial insights into students’ progress. Reach out to learn more!