Online Course Design: The Impact of Text on Success or Failure

Dr. Benjamin Washington
Dr. Benjamin Washington
High school assistant principal; Ed.D. in Educational Leadership
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Creating effective course design can be a rewarding experience. Preparing online course content entails planning and knowing what specific goals are necessary to establish for effective instruction for students. Whether creating new course content or revamping older online content, both knowing the audience and what they are expected to learn is important. Online course design requires the content creator to know how to engage the recipients of the content but also know how to engage those learners for the maximum learning experience and analysis of best teaching practices. Developing online course content has specific components that add value to the learning experience of the student.

When implementing online course design it is important to plan out components that make learning significant. These include considering what situational factors will impact the students’ learning goals, effective text for content delivery, and what type of feedback and assessments will be given. Depending on the situational factors of the online course design certain text can be a success or failure for implementing the online material.

Situational Factors

Determining what situational factors impact the online course design process will help in analyzing whether the text being utilized is a success or needs to be reconsidered. Knowing what situational factors influence the course design helps the instructor begin with the end in mind and also plan the best ways to engage students with their particular learning process. Examples of situational factors include questions such as How many students are in the class? What are the learning expectations of the department, school, or university? What level is the course? What are the characteristics of learners (age, family, technology experience, career goals, class expectations)?

Effective Text for Content Delivery

Using effective text is essential for delivering content for online course development. In order to see what works it is important to know what type of text can be used for delivery of information. Finding the right text to deliver content can either enhance the learning or stifle the growth of the individual who is attempting to gather information and learn. There are multiple ways text can enhance the learning experience. The following are examples of text that can be used for online course design.

Scope and Sequence Text

Scope and sequence text involves planning out and instructing students with a scope that involves the curriculum as a whole and then a sequence which entails how to deliver the context in a sequence using curriculum that is planned out by months or by a semester. The plus side of this is that the text used and information disseminated can be monitored and adjusted to the specific curriculum. However, the challenges come from having to tailor the learning to the students based on their learning levels. If the instructor is not aware of this, challenges may occur when delivering the content.

Course Interface Text

Utilizing course interface text allows for the user to have access to videos, webquest, and links for further research. The advantage of this is having multiple ways to gather information. However, if the instructor is not specific about their expectations this can lead to confusion with the students or a lack of proper resourcing and fact finding if the instructor is not clear and direct with expectations. This is a great way to facilitate research projects, online discussion and engaging students with multiple learning abilities. With this text variation learners must navigate to what they need to do to complete tasks. All material is presented immediately, but the difficulty comes from knowing which learning management systems support this format. If the proper LMS isn’t used then it can create difficulty for both the instructor and student with the learning process.

Activity/Assessment Related Text

Assessment texts are vital for gathering feedback from students and understanding where students are with their learning and skills. Students have the opportunity to explore pre assessments, post assessments and also text that engages the learner while they are analyzing the content. This is a great way for the teacher to gauge the students abilities but also for the students to monitor their own progress when it comes to their individual growth and development. Using activity and assessment related text is an effective way to see how well the online design developer is creating content but also how well the recipients of that content are learning and growing with their class materials.

In summation, it is important to know the situational factors for online course design but also which forms of text and information facilitation are best for the intended audience. Overall, each example of text within the construct of online course design has their pros and cons, but the success or failure depends on the situational factors that allow for the instructor to guide students and students to interpret the learning goals of the class and development software. Whether it is a full eLearning experience or a hybrid learning model, online course design is critical for engaging students at a distance and for personal learning goals, meaning it is crucial educators are equipped with the necessary expertise. Doing a full review of both these factors adds to the experience of the user of online course ware but also enhances the ability of the designer. When this is done both the instructor and student have a platform to successfully engage in the learning experience and the professional development of the student and professional learner.

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