Transitioning to online course delivery: Quick guide and considerations

As Coronavirus presence has spread out, institutions and organizations are transitioning to online learning as a way for their students and employees to stay healthy and slow down propagation.

Under these circumstances, the transition to online learning is required fast, so I wanted to share some recommendations that I believe could help to respond quickly to this expectation.

This post does not aim to be a comprehensive guide to digital teaching and learning transformation, but mostly a resource with helpful considerations in the face of the change required now. This is applicable both for education and corporate training environments, and it is mostly directed towards instructors with some things relevant at the institutional/organizational level.

This post also assumes you are using an LMS to move your classes online and includes links to resources if you are using Open LMS. Considerations are tech agnostic, thoughs.

Getting started and important mindset considerations

Learning objectives should be the guiding star: Before deciding on tools. Keep in mind that no matter the channels or mechanisms to deliver teaching or training, the subjacent objectives are the same. Your aim to develop a set of skills and knowledge should always be starting point o your planning.

Start delivering value, adjust as you advance: There will be time for improvements as you advance in your initiative, but right now, the health and safety of the community are the priorities. With that 'Don't Let the Perfect Be the Enemy of the Good'.

Communication is critical: During this transition, make sure you have official communication channels with your community. Clarity on where your audience should expect information is vital at both 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.

  • 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 group level: Course/group chat, forums, announcements. WhatsApp.

Share resources and think at scale: Collaboration could go a long way in making sure that the broader efforts could 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 in a place that can be used by everyone. Curate materials and resources such as videos, help docs, vendor documentation, guides, etc. that can be used by your instructors. Community its existence, keep updating them, and be open to feedback. If possible, think of providing instruction or course templates to help instructors to quickstart their efforts.
  • Group/Instructor level: Think of what tools and mechanisms could be used consistently across your courses to find efficiencies. Have your objectives always at hand, think about an inventory of supporting resources that could be shared with your peers at the institutional/organizational level.

Creating your online courses

Consider starting from the assessment: Based on your learning objectives, an excellent way to think about what you need to build or deliver in your course is to start with the assement in mind. If you have clarity on what you are going to measure for course results, you could work your way back to think about what resources and activities you need. Also, you may already have assement planned for your face to face classes and that's a great starting point.

Resources:

Preparing your assessment practices to scale: A good way to find efficiency in your teaching practice would be to use assessment types that could be automatically graded where it makes sense. These include things like 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.

Resources:

Provide clear and consistent instructions: This is important for all elements in your course. Think of things like navigation instructions, course organization, deadlines, resources, and activities. In a time in which some of your learners would take online classes for the first time, providing clear information about what to expect and how to interact with things makes a huge difference. Also, if you maintain consistency at different levels (activities, resources, weeks/topics, courses, descriptions, etc.) helps so your 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.

Resources:

Keeping it simple for resources: Provide resources and materials that are meaningful for the learning objectives and avoid resource saturation/cluttering. Make it explicit what resources are required and what are optional. Focus on the resources that will move the needle towards learning objectives. You could use materials that come from web publications, books, and resources that you were already planning to use in your face to face class.

In addition, consider fleshing out resources that are useful but may require a slight improvement to multiply its impact. E.g., If you have a PPT presentation that you intended to deliver in your class, avoid just uploading it without any context. Provide a good description to it, notes, comments, and even consider recoding yourself going trough it or delivering it live via a web tool.

If you are planning to use video significantly, we recommend using platforms dedicated to that such as YouTube, Vimeo, etc. These platforms have many features that could be helpful such as dynamic bandwidth management, live AI captioning, etc. and could be easily embedded in the LMS.

Resources:

Focus on activity effectiveness and quick transformation: There are many activity types, and it is tempting to think of adding too much to presentation layers as a start (interactivity, aesthetics, etc). All of that is important and can be improved with time. Still, as you navigate through the urgency of current times, 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 learner prepare for assesment and build on the learning objectives?.

Think of quick ways you can transform what you already build for your face to face classes. Popular activities that can get you started fast, and that could be translated very well from face to face instruction, are assignments, quizzes, and forums. Consistency and clarity are also critical here, so make sure you account for that in your descriptions and instructions.

Resources:

Facilitating your online courses

Setup 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 what 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 mecahism for them to connect and support each other.

Also, consider using web collaboration tools like Blackboard Collaborate, Hangouts, etc. to facilitate live sessions. This not only helps to deliver live classes remotly but also could go a long way to connect with your students. It is also useful to think of these tools as virtual offices, to help students address questions live or assist them in detail.

Resources:

Introduce yourself: Use the initial course sections or communications in your chosen channels. Be sure you let your learners know who you are and how/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.

Resources:


Communicate regularly and provide quality feedback: You could 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 such as quizzes and assignments in which you could add pre-defined responses to your learners based on their answers or grades.

Pablo Borbón
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Pablo Borbón

Senior Director of Growth at Open LMS

Senior Director of Growth at Open LMS

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