Preparing Your First Online Course

Preparing Your First Online Course
Preparing to teach your first course can be intimidating. Colleges, universities, and other educational institutions have required materials such as pre-selected textbooks, curricula, and syllabi that are necessary to begin your teaching experience. However, some teaching positions require the instructor to develop such materials before the first day of class. In such cases, long-term planning will help ensure instructors are fully prepared.

Approximately three months before beginning class instruction, create an appropriate set of learning objectives for your students. Highlight critical areas you expect your students to have a thorough understanding of by the end of the course; they should know how to apply their new-found knowledge in real-world situations. Instituting a practical set of learning objectives will better help you formulate details of the course components, including required textbooks, technology, teaching methodology, student activities such as labs and assignments, and quizzes and projects for learning assessment. In addition to learning objectives, finding ways to engage students in classroom discussions is imperative. Be sure to add a plan to your course components that can be used as an introductory exercise for the first day to help break the ice, which will enhance the learning environment and add a little fun.

Once you have gathered all the course materials and technology, it is time to outline the topics you will teach in a syllabus document. The syllabus should begin taking shape about two months before class starts. One way to interpret a course syllabus is by comparing it to a student and instructor contract. The curriculum explains the teacher's expectations and the student's responsibilities within a specific timeframe. Syllabus and curriculums are valuable tools that help students and instructors stay organized, especially if students take more than one course.

Approximately one month before your class begins, you should put yourself in the student's chair. Examining the syllabus and doing the coursework yourself will assist in methodically understanding the learning objectives you want to deliver and discovering novel ideas you thought you were proficient in. Reviewing the course materials each quarter or semester also provides an opportunity to update coursework based on changes in the industry, particularly in Information Technology.

Ensure all your technology and resources are in place a few weeks before class. Ensure a list of required technology tools to participate in class discussions or viewing presentations is available. Many instructors today use YouTube videos or create presentations or lectures using a variety of applications. If your course lecture is interactive and requires particular browser compatibility, ensure students know this in the course requirements section. Noting all the requirements up front will provide a smoother learning transition without worrying about technical difficulties. Some instructors teach the same course each quarter; reviewing the student resource links to ensure they are active is always wise. One constant in technology is that it's ever-changing.

On day one, send your students a welcome introduction announcement. Tell a little about yourself, including your work experience, educational background, goals, and interests. Get ahead of the game: create an exciting and engaging introduction highlighting who you are and encouraging students to share more about their interests and goals. The more fuel you add to the announcement, the better your chances of building an engaging momentum within an online learning environment.

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This content was written by Patricia Pedraza-Nafziger. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Dr. Patricia Pedraza-Nafziger for details.