Time Management Strategies for Online Courses
2. Course Development
Compatibility and Accessibility
The development of an online course can take anywhere from six months to a year, and sometimes even longer. This is due primarily to the added tasks of making the course content web compatible.
Subject matter experts create the course content just as in a campus-based course, but developers of online courses need to take the additional steps of placing that course material into a web-based environment. This may include the addition of graphics, tables, hyperlinks, and menus and navigation systems. Developers then must ensure that the course flows smoothly from screen to screen and from module to module.When this is done, developers then must ensure that every page of material complies with the American With Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates to ensure accessibility to students with special needs.
To make life a bit easier, consider the following tips during the online course development process:
- Use e-packs, course cartridges, or similar ready-made content direct from textbook publishers. Many times these are fully developed courses that can be plugged directly into your course management system. These prepackaged courses are fully modifiable and can save a tremendous amount of time on course development.
- Use the website of your textbook publisher. Most publishers of textbooks, such as Thomson, Houghton-Mifflin, McGraw-Hill, and Pearson have created supplemental websites that are associated with textbooks that contain a wealth of information that can be used in association with the textbook. Such information may include lecture notes, quiz questions, discussion topics, group project ideas, glossary terms, supplemental readings, and links to relevant websites containing additional information.
- Use material from traditional courses to supplement online materials. Instructors having taught a traditional classroom-based version of a course have accumulated background material that includes lecture notes, quiz questions, supplemental readings, and more. Consider digitizing this material and placing it into the online course.
- Have the entire course developed prior to the start of the semester. Avoid developing the course on-the-fly. Not only will continuity suffer but students will be unable to work ahead, prompting phone calls and emails from students.
- Include links to common student issues such as the syllabus, calendar with critical due dates noted, technical assistance contact information, library, student services, instructor contact information. The more information made available to students the fewer questions will be asked of the instructor.
- Consider using learning objects as part of your course content. Learning objects are stand-alone chunks of course material that can be plugged directly into your online course with little or no modification, and at zero cost. Organizations such as MERLOT have a huge database of learning objects covering virtually all disciplines that can be downloaded free of charge and used freely within online courses.
- Develop a course collaboratively with several instructors from the same discipline but not necessarily from the same institution. Each instructor would develop a portion of the course while providing feedback on the other sections during the development process. As an added benefit, each instructor would then be able to teach that course at their home institution or teach the course online as an adjunct for another institution.