I need you to know that you are doing great. You have set up a great deal of the base of your course. Now, you’re about to take the thoughts that were building from the metacognition and gamification reading and use them in course design. First, I’m going to share some models with you, then you will plan your week, and finally, we’ll talk about resources.

I’m excited about the work you’ve done and for you to take the next step.

A lot of people have experienced what I consider a traditional online course design model. This model asks students to:

  • Consume information from a mix of textbooks, scholarly articles, and maybe a video or podcast.
  • Make two to three posts to a discussion board: a unique idea, and two comments on other posts.
  • Write an essay.
  • Take a test every two weeks. 

I am critical of this model because I do not feel it accurately reflects how instructors work, how they use the classroom community to build understanding, or how they help students retain information beyond the course.

Let’s look at several options for how to combine topics from the last post, like metacognition,  and course design:

Barry's Perferred
  • Intro Video: A short video from the instructor about what students can expect in the coming week (don’t mention hard dates, and you can use this video again for future courses).
  • Learning Objectives: What the students will know at the end of the module.
  • To-do List: What do students need to do, including a combination of: 
    • Instructor-led presentations
    • Reading assignments
    • Tasks
      • Worksheet/online learning guide
      • Discussion board
      • Interleaving Testing Pool Quiz (use effortful learning and Growth Mindset strategies shared in the last post)
    • A statement reminding students how to reach you if needed.
PARSA (Preview, Attend, Review, Study, Assess)
  • Wrapper quiz intro; once the quiz is submitted, other items are viewable.
  • Intro Video
  • Learning Objectives
  • To-do List 
    • Presentations
    • Reading assignments
    • Tasks
    • Wrapper quiz exit; once the quiz is submitted, the next learning module is made available.
  • A statement reminding students how to reach you if needed
SQ3R (Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review)
  • Learning Objectives
  • Descriptions of To-do List items
  • Wrapper pre-test 
    • Student creates 5-10 questions to which they want to know answers.
    • Once the quiz submits To-Do List is viewable.
  • To-Do List 
    • Presentations
    • Reading assignments
    • Tasks 
    • Test pool quiz, including questions from all students.
    • Wrapper post-test; once the quiz is submitted, the next learning module is made available.
  • A statement reminding students how to reach you if needed

Step 4: Plan Your Week

Now that you’ve done the groundwork, thought about the design of your course, let’s flesh it out, making a Course Outline. Open the Step 4: Plan Your Week worksheet and get ready to use it with the Step 3 worksheet you completed and have available.

First, choose what day of the week your course will start on. My recommendation is to have sections start on Monday and go through Sunday. Many instructors will set a due timestamp of just before midnight (11:59 p.m.) to give students space before opening the new week to students. The CMS will control students submitting projects for you. You can use a late policy, and the CMS will accept an item after its due, tell you what time it was submitted, and choose to enforce that policy with points.

When working in postsecondary distance education, research demonstrated students would read and consume information during the week and participate with comments as expected, with the lion’s share of the work coming Friday evening through midnight. K12 students have a wide range of experiences — some will be working to help support their families, and others may not have consistent access to a computer. Your policy’s goal is to cast as wide a net as possible to encourage all students to submit work that meets your expectations.

Once you know your course-week, choose which Course Design model you like. The goal is to use the model throughout the term so your students will have consistency. There can be additions as needed, but the model will be the road carrying passengers.

If you don’t like any of the models listed, feel free to use another that you’re comfortable with, or send me an email and I’ll be glad to help you dial in something that works better for you. 

As you are working through Step 4, you will be referring to the information you have already filled in Step 3.

  • If you are working in your word processor, copy the model, and paste it into the appropriate week on the Step 3 Worksheet. Repeat this for each week of your term.
  • If you are not working in your word processor, print as many copies as you need or refer to this document while writing in your notebook.

In Week 1: Step 2 you were asked to define your goal of the class overall. Similarly, start Step 4 by asking yourself, “What will my student know at the end of this week?” These weekly goals are learning objectives.

Learning Objectives are statements that tell students what you will measure. It’s like a contract between you and the student, and you can use it to judge how effective your lessons are. Because these are Learning Objectives, use Bloom’s Taxonomy when building the statements. A couple of rules I use when developing learning objectives in these units is:

  1. Don’t use domain words (Know, Comprehend, Apply, Analyze, Synthesize, and Evaluate) in the statement.
  2. Don’t have more than one measurable word in a learning objective.
    • Pro-tip: If you have an “and” in your learning objective, you are measuring two things.
    • Western Kentucky University has an excellent online tutorial about goals and objectives.

Like with Step 2, list as many learning objectives as you like. The purpose of these statements is to keep you accountable to your learners. What do you expect them to know at the end of this week?

If you have an idea of some of the items in the to-do list, go ahead and add them here, but remember that nothing is permanent. Don’t spend a lot of time thinking that granular yet. Make some light notes, skip to the next week, and list your learning objectives for the week. Continue the process until your learning objectives for the course are complete.

What you have done is fantastic. Your planning is coming together now! Like you did at the beginning of Step 3, let’s compare your week’s learning objectives to your course goals. Make your frequency chart and ask yourself a similar set of questions as before:

  • Do my learning objectives reflect my goals? 
    • If yes, good! 
    • If no, does that goal need to be addressed?
  • Do my learning objectives relate to at least one goal? 
    • If yes, good!
    • If no, should I create a new goal? 
      • You don’t have to, but it is worth asking the question.
  • Are these learning objectives the correct learning objectives? 
    • If yes, good!
    • If no, what is/are the new learning objective/s? 
      • Maybe one learning objective/s needs to be spread across two weeks.

Review the notes of resources and assignments you want to use with your students. Are there any you would like to add, remove, or adjust? Make note, and walk away for a bit.

While you’re away from the worksheets, start getting your materials together so you can have them ready to plug in. If you have taught the course before, you probably have the information you need, but make sure you do have it. If you have worksheets you prefer students use, find or make versions on your computer. Scanning can work, but I find that I prefer to share copies made on a computer.

Select your resources

Now you know who your audience is, what you’re going to teach, the central space where your class will meet, when you’re going to teach it, and why you are using an online platform. Now let’s talk about how.

There are many tools available to you. Your CMS will have tools, publishers of textbooks have extra materials online, and other organizations are offering free access to resources like virtual field trips to museums, talks with experts, and more. I encourage you to think about those resources and how you want to use them to benefit your class.

There is an overwhelming amount of content out in the world. Your role as the instructor is to curate that content to help your students know what you think is valuable. Then encourage them to explore, so they bring you more resources for future instruction.

I will focus on ways to use your CMS to assist you. 

  • Discussion boards: Discussion boards are powerful tools. I recommend using them to gauge opinions from students. 
    • I prefer not to allow students to read other posts until they have submitted; this means that their first response should be an authentic thought. Continuing assignments can be to ask participants to “like” or “star” posts similar to theirs, comment on a person’s post they disagree with, find a part they agree with, and so on. 
    • You can scan them before a class, begin a conversation, and quote students as you go through the discussion. You can also encourage students to use quotes from their peers in class.
    • I worked with a professor who used two discussion boards a week. One discussion board was for informal discussion around topics based on the learning objectives. Then the second discussion board was for formal writing where others in the class could comment. The idea was that students would use the informal discussion board to refine their thoughts and arguments for the formal discussion board. At the end of the course, the students combined the seven weeks of writing into one research paper based on the course’s central takeaway. The instructor was very pleased with the product of the student work, and the students gave the course favorable reviews.
  • Rubrics: Rubrics help you define to students what you want. They are especially valuable with subjective grading. 
    • Once created and stored in your CMS, you can link your rubric to any assignment. Therefore, if you ask students to make a discussion board post once a week, you can create one discussion board rubric and attach it to all discussion board assignments for grading. Using the rubric will give you a clear and quick way to provide feedback and score students to your standards.
    • There is an instructor who uses screencasting along with the rubric tool to help score rubrics faster. 
    • Rubrics can be fun. You are the one that decides the titles of columns, language, and rewards for your class. Use those things to share your personality with your students.
  • User Interface (UI): Use the CMS to deliver the most relevant information to students first.
    • The CMS will typically show the weeks to students how you order them.
    • “Reverse stack” the weeks in your viewer to make the weeks appear ordered for the student.
    • Leave previous weeks open for students so students can refer to that information.
  • Sections opening: As mentioned above, I prefer a Monday through Sunday workweek, and will use that as my default example. You should use the dates and times that align with your needs. 
    • I like to set new sections to open at midnight of the new week by default.
    • And I reward people who want to work ahead by making the new week available earlier Sunday (6-8 p.m.) after all assignments are submitted.
  • Using rules: Rules are what help make your course more automated. They can be tricky your first time setting them up, but it is worth it. 
    • Using the rules allows you to create a more individualized experience for your students, like above, where a section can open early.
    • Similarly, you can add exceptions to tests, and then apply it to students in need of accommodations without the student making a special request.
    • Rules allow you to create unique learning experiences in your class, like automating groups allowing for a “jigsaw” class online.

Above I said I’m not going to recommend tools — I take that back. I will recommend one: Voicethread. It allows you to share presentations, overlay your voice on top of those presentations, and allows participants to comment, where they feel it necessary. It can be used in a top-down way, or among peers to share ideas, collaborate, and create understanding. I think it is a potent tool.

You already know a lot of what I’m telling you, so my apologies if I’m restating the obvious. The organization you have done is vitally important to building out your course. Put your plan in the outline and use a calendar, noting when things will start and finish to see the big picture.

Thursday, I will focus on transferring your outline to your CMS, building out your remaining classes, and suggestions about class maintenance. I look forward to hearing from you.

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