Winter semester online courses filling up faster than F2F – Are instructors prepared?

Although I don’t have any hard numbers at my disposal, instructors have been telling me their online course offerings are filled up while their F2F courses fall behind in capacity. I’m sure these will fill up eventually, but this trend leads me to ask the question: Are instructors prepared to teach online?

If you’ve already taught online via an LMS like Canvas, Moodle or Blackboard, then you have a head start over those who have never taught online. Sure, doing a course copy saves countless hours of development, but while you are checking that the dates line up to the new semester’s deadlines, also have a look at some other aspects of your course:

  • Is there an area where participation fell? If so, what could you add, take away, or modify to boost engagement?
  • Is there an app, such as Kahoot! or Padlet that you you’ve been meaning to try? Students are getting rather tired of the effective but tedious and predictable discussion forums. Spice it up a bit, with an emphasis on “a bit”.
  • Did you add a synchronous component to your last courses? Sure, students want online learning so they can learn at their own time and place, but giving an open-ended online area where groups can get together and discuss opens up a whole new realm for those new to online learning. Name them something like East Side Café and West Side Café or Geographer’s Café.
  • How are students to get a hold of you? Have a Virtual Office. Set up an open-ended session for yourself with a permalink that you can quickly meet online and share screens if necessary.
  • Add video – now it’s easier to discussion posts with video, introduction videos, and video presentations. Allow students to use their own video application and just add a link or embed code. Chances are they already know how to and if not, your Teaching and Learning center can help them. It’s an essential skill in today’s world, and you provide the demand for it.

If you’re new to online learning then you can focus on developing a simple modular content folder consisting of the following:

  1. The module’s overview. One module could be a week, a chapter, a unit or whatever
  2. The material: readings and videos
  3. The discussion / collaboration component
  4. The activities to synthesize and process the knowledge
  5. An assessment tool
  6. A wrap up

Developing a course shell takes a bit of creativity and imagination. Remember to put yourself in the students’ shoes when you begin adding content.

Once this is done just wash, rinse and repeat for each content folder. You can spice it up a little at the next iteration.

Once you get going there’s no stopping, it’s fun developing a course. But, don’t aim for perfection. There are veteran online instructors who still get calls from students, “You said the final exam is from today, but I can’t see it!”. There are many settings that we can overlook, don’t worry if you overlook a few, too.

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