On High Quality Online Classrooms

What exactly is a high-quality online course is a question that has held the attention of researchers, practitioners, and entrepreneurs for decades. Many schools have adopted their own set of guidelines, perhaps even templates other methods of making sure instructors have in place what the school leaders believe to be effective practices. Some schools have adopted one of the many series of rubrics that have been prepared by professional organizations or businesses. Faculty and instructional designers who want to conduct a thorough review of a course have many options, and each will provide comprehensive and complete guidance.

This “thing” we might call a high-quality online classroom has taken on increased relevance for faculty in both K-12 and higher education in recent decades. For those who need to provide effective education at a distance, but who may lack experience or support, this post points to a few design principles:

First, make your materials as accessible as possible. Every student should be able to open the files you upload without the need to install or configure their systems. Further, every students should be able to consume the information in your materials. This means we make out Word documents PDF before uploading them. It also means we use the accessibility checkers in our applications before uploading the final version of our files. We also add closed captions to our videos.

Second, include opportunities for meaningful interaction. We have forums, blogs, and wikis (among other tools) available in our online classrooms. Craft interesting questions and tasks that require students build knowledge together. Give those activities context and generate interesting prompts, then participate in (but do not dominate) the interaction.

Third, make sure the materials and assignments are organized. It is tempting as an online instructor to just post items to your course and hpe students will find them. Learn what options there are for organizing your online classroom so students are not forced to scroll through pages of content.

Fourth, focus on feedback. Especially for online learners, the feedback you give them helps them to understand what they are learning and how it is learned. Consider all of the options you have for providing feedback. Can you leave audio or video feedback? Perhaps you can organize a video conferencing session with students.