Transitioning to Online Course Delivery: A Quick Guide and Some Considerations
Institutions and organizations are switching to online learning as a way to provide a better learning or training experience for their students and employees. Naturally, they expect to accomplish this transition as smoothly and quickly as possible, without slowing down their regular workflow.
Although moving traditional learning to an online environment might seem like a gigantic project, there are basic key steps any organization or institution should take to guarantee a smooth transition.
This article doesn’t aim to be a comprehensive guide to digital teaching and learning transformation, but mostly a resource with helpful considerations for a quick transition. The instructions are applicable both for higher education and corporate training, and it’s mostly directed toward instructors and teams in charge of designing and facilitating online courses.
Important: This guide assumes that you’re using a Learning Management System (LMS) like Open LMS to move your classes and training programs online.
Learning objectives should be your guiding star before choosing the tools you need. Keep in mind that no matter the channels or mechanisms to deliver teaching or training, the base goals should remain the same. Your aim of helping learners develop skills and gain knowledge should always be the starting point of your planning.
Communication Is Critical
As you transition to a virtual/online environment, it’s important to ensure you have official communication channels with your community. Clarity on where your audience should expect information is vital at both the institutional/organizational level and at the group level with your learners. The critical consideration here is to be clear on what the official channels are, and be consistent with their usage. Here are some tools that can help you:
- Tools to consider at the institutional level: Institutional/corporate email, SMS channels if you have them, official social media channels such as Twitter, YouTube, etc., LMS communications, WhatsApp for business.
- Tools to consider at the group level: Course/group chat, forums, announcements, and WhatsApp.
Sharing Resources to Speed Up Adoption
Collaboration could go a long way in making sure that broader efforts lead to faster results. Consider providing places, tools, and resources that can be used by your entire community:
- Institution/organization level: Provide centralized help resources if you have them, or consider capturing what the community is sharing so it can be used by everyone. Curate materials and resources such as videos, help docs, or guides that instructors can use. If possible, think of providing instruction or course templates to help instructors speed up their efforts.
- Group/instructor level: Think of which tools and mechanisms could be used consistently across your courses to find efficiencies—for example, an inventory of supporting resources that could be shared with your peers at the institutional/organizational level.
Creating Your Online Courses
There’s no magic formula to designing effective online courses. Every organization or institution will have its own goals and use cases to consider when creating courses. However, you can follow these guidelines to ensure you’re going down the right path:
1. Think of Your Learners’ Goals
A good place to start designing your course is by reviewing how you plan to evaluate your learners. If you have clarity on what you’re going to measure for course results, you could easily figure out what resources and activities you need.
To improve the experience for instructors, use assessment types that could be automatically graded. These include using question types like multiple choice, calculated questions, etc. Alternatively, consider using rubrics to facilitate grading and to provide additional information to your learners on what to expect.
More reading material:
- Best Practices for Using Rubrics: 4 Student Benefits and Teacher Tips
- Best Practices: 30 Tips for Creating Quiz Questions
- Best Practices: How to Videos for Creating Moodle™ Rubrics
2. Provide Clear and Consistent Instructions
Every element in your course should be easy to understand and consistent—from how to navigate the course to how to complete activities.
Keep in mind that for some of your learners, it might be their first time taking online education. Providing clear information about what to expect and how to interact with the course can make their experience better. It’s also one of the key principles of accessible design.
If your course is consistent, learners won't need to learn what to expect from each component each time. Time could be devoted to making progress in courses instead of making sense of it.
3. Keep Your Resourcing Simple
Provide resources and materials that are meaningful for the learning goals. Avoid resource saturation or cluttering. Make it clear which resources are required and which are optional. You could use materials that come from web publications, books, and resources that you were already using in your previous face-to-face courses.
Some of your current resources might be useful but might require a slight improvement to ensure and enhance their impact. For example, if you have a slide deck that you intended to use in your course, avoid just uploading it without any context. Provide a good description of it, include notes or comments, and even consider recording yourself going through it or delivering it live via a web tool.
If you’re planning to ramp up your use of video, we recommend using platforms dedicated to that, such as YouTube, Vimeo, etc. These platforms have many features that could be helpful, including dynamic bandwidth management or live captioning. These videos can easily be embedded in the LMS.
More reading material:
- Best practices: Making the Most of Popular Resource Modules in Moodle™
- Recording Audio and Video Directly From the LMS
4. Focus on Activity Effectiveness
There are many activity types and elements in a LMS, and it’s tempting to add too much at the start. However, in the first stages of your online education journey, it could be wiser to focus on activity effectiveness and adjust as you advance. Answer the question: How is this activity going to help my learners achieve their learning objectives?
Think of quick ways you can transform what you already built for your face-to-face learning/training. Common activities that can get you started are assignments, quizzes, and forums. Consistency and clarity are also critical here, so make sure you account for that in your descriptions and instructions.
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Facilitating Your Online Courses
The success of an online course doesn’t only depend on its content but also on its facilitators. Although the designing phase of an online learning course is vital, it’s also important to have strategies for when the course is up and running. Here are some key steps to take before initiating a course as a facilitator:
1. Set Up Your Environment and Select the Right Tools
The LMS itself provides many tools that can be used for communications, such as chats, forums, messages, etc. Communicate clearly from the start which channels you expect to use and how. Think of these tools not just as a way for you to communicate with learners but also as a mechanism for them to connect and support each other.
Also, consider using web collaboration LMS extensions like Class to facilitate live sessions. This not only helps to deliver live classes remotely, but it could also go a long way to connect with your students. Think of these tools as virtual offices to help students address questions live or assist them in detail.
2. Introduce Yourself
Use the initial course sections or the designated communication channels to introduce yourself. Be sure you let your learners know who you are and how or when they can get in touch with you. Additionally, make sure to facilitate any other essential contacts such as support, help desk, academic authorities, HR, etc. Open LMS’ Personalized Learning Designer (PLD) can help you automate your greetings to new students.
3. Communicate Regularly and Provide Quality Feedback
Think of adding expected response times to guide your students in the course. This is useful to your learners but also can be a way for you to plan your facilitation across different courses.
When grading, be sure to provide quality feedback that helps learners in their process. This is not only effective but also easy to scale with online tools and Open LMS’s PLD with which you could add pre-defined responses to your learners based on their answers or grades.
If you want to know more about Open LMS and how it can help your organization or educational institution build successful learning experiences, contact us or schedule a demo!