Friday, August 21, 2015

Time to Update

The new school year is here! And, as I have said previously, the summer has literally flown by. You may already have students in your classroom, may be getting ready for students to start soon, or may be in PD sessions in your district. In any case, there is a flurry of activity to get ready for a new school year. And, although you may have been there before, it is still an exciting time for you and your students. It is no different for online teachers either. Getting a course up and ready for a new group of students is always exciting—the anticipation builds as the online instructor prepares and makes sure everything is ready to go for that first opening day of the online course.

What do online teachers need to do to prepare a course? There are many steps—more if it is a brand new course that has not been taught before. But even if it is a course that has been taught over and over by the same online instructor, there are still things to do before the class actually begins.

Here is my TOP 10 checklist:

  1. Backup the course.
    It is always a good idea to back up the course before you do anything else. This will provide a way for the LMS administrator to restore the course if needed.
  2. Download the grade book.
    Once a course has ended, it is highly recommended that you download a copy of the grade book and store somewhere on your own computer or backup drive. Then, if a student questions the final grade you gave them, you can go back and look at their grade history. You will be able to view the grades without needing to ask the LMS administrator to restored your course.
  3. Reset the course.
    Resetting the course removes previous students, discussion posts, assignment attempts, and grades. It allows me to reuse the content without having to start completely over.
  4. Check website links.
    This is so important as web links change so quickly. This will ensure that everything that is linked to a website outside of the LMS is up-to-date.
  5. Check readings, like article links.
    Using articles that are out-of-date (older than 5 years) gives your students the impression that you are not up-to-date on your content knowledge. Some older articles may be seminal and thus appropriate.
  6. Check for content.
    Is there any content that needs to be added or replaced? Sometimes I find newer content that is more relevant to use either because of my own searching or because students in the previous section have found, and shared incredible resources.
  7.  Assignments.
    Are the assignments still appropriate? If an assignment didn’t work in the previous section of the course, now is the time to change it. But remember, anything you change must also be reflected in the course syllabus. So if you add or change an assignment in the course, it must be added or changed in the syllabus. Also check for due dates. Students in online courses get very frustrated when they see a reminder that says they have an assignment due and the date is already past.
  8. Grading criteria.
    Are the grading criteria, rubric, checklist (whatever form of assessment you use) still appropriate? Again, if you change the way something is graded, it must be reflected in the syllabus and/or the rubric.
  9.  Navigation and Visual Appeal.
    Do you like the way the course is laid out? Is it visually appealing? Can students navigate through the course without needing a lot of “handholding” from the instructor? Check the evaluations or emails you received from previous students. If you received a lot of questions about what to do, how to get to things in the course, etc., you will probably want to see if there is an easier way to organize the content. Adding a pacing chart for each section may be helpful. Providing a weekly announcement about where they should be in the course can also be helpful for students. Make the expectations clear at the beginning of the course. Can students jump ahead or do you want them to do things in a more linear fashion? Tell them what you want them to do. If you want them to make 3 forum posts per week, then you need to say that up front.
  10. Welcome email.
    Check the email you send out prior to the start date of the course.  Is the start and end dates of the course correct? Are there other updates that need to be made to that initial email? Do students know how they can contact you and when you are available? Make sure to give them the correct information about how to access your course—how to log in, where to find the course, the correct (possibly updated) enrollment code, etc. Remember, this is your first contact with the online students and you want to make a good impression.

I have never been a teacher, in the classroom or in the online classroom, who can walk in on the first day of class and teach the same things in the same way. How boring that would be for me. The students are not the same, so the teaching techniques I use have to be adjusted to meet their needs. It is the same in the online classroom. Online content can get stale, dated, or just plain dull.

This article, 9 Ideas to Keep Your Course Interesting, presents some great ideas for keeping your online course fresh and updated. Well worth the read (and it isn't very long).

Have a great new school year!

Peggy Steinbronn, Ed.D.

No comments:

Post a Comment