Students will benefit from an online course that is well-designed. A well-designed course is characterized by the following features:
- Clearly defined and measurable learning objectives written from the student perspective
- An intuitive course structure that helps students get started and navigate the course efficiently
- A variety of learning activities that engage students to achieve the stated learning objectives via three types of interaction: learner to learner, learner to instructor, and learner to content
- Well-articulated rubrics to help students complete course assignments and activities
- Student access to institutional support services essential to student success
- A commitment to accessibility for all students
The ADDIE model is frequently used by instructional designers in the design and development of online courses. This model contains five steps that can guide faculty developers to create effective student-centered instructions.
In the analysis phase, instructors should consider the elements of course design from a broader context, by first identifying the main goals, essential concepts, and critical skills students should acquire at the conclusion of the course. The first step is to begin with clearly defined and measurable course level learning objectives that will align with program outcomes/goals.
It is also imperative to examine the learners, the learning environment, the content, pedagogy, and appropriate technology that will support the successful attainment of the learning objectives.
Consider these questions as you begin planning your course:
- What are the course objectives?
- What do you want the learners to be able to do through your instruction?
- How will you measure or assess if the student has attained these learning objectives?
- Who are the learners and what are their characteristics, attitudes, prior knowledge and skills?
- What are the constraints on the teaching and learning environment?
- What essential content and information is needed to facilitate learning?
- What tasks are critical in order for the students to achieve the course objectives?
- What is the sequencing of content and activities that will apply to this and other courses?
- What technologies are available and appropriate to facilitate and support learning outcomes?
- What are the pedagogical considerations?
- What is the timeline for project completion?
After establishing clear course objectives, you can begin designing your course. Design involves several fundamental concepts:
- Alignment planning is essential to guide your efforts to align course objectives, module/unit objectives and your materials, activities and assessments. This validates that you are teaching and assessing the same objectives.
- Course management planning, involves identifying and utilizing the resources available for improved management of the course. A management plan will include resources to support your teaching, decrease your workload, and prepare the learners and learning environment.
- Module design considerations help the student easily navigate through course material, find support resources, and identify and utilize important extended learning resources.
- Sequencing of instruction should be based specifically on the alignment of content, activities, and assessments, to each of the measurable learning objectives.
- Development of appropriate instructional strategies, or events of instruction, should guide the student through meaningful activities needed to successfully attain the learner-centered objectives.
- Course structure and layout standards will provide consistency and ease of navigation and accessibility for students.
Utilizing all of the information gathered from the analysis and design phases, the development phase will be an iterative process of writing, organizing and revising the course based on formative and summative assessment data. Throughout this phase the desired outcomes should guide decisions and answer the following questions:
- Core content:
- What is the important knowledge and essential skills students would need in order to successfully complete the activity?
- How can I motivate the students to learn the content?
- How will I deliver this core content? (Research finds using multiple approaches and resources to deliver content, clearly affects student attainment of core knowledge and skills)
- In what setting will the student use the knowledge and skills?
- How are these skills relevant and useful to a real-world setting?
- Does the learning environment closely resemble the work environment in which the content and skills will be used?
- Authentic activities
- Are these activities based on a real-world problem or situation?
- Are the activities motivating, collaborative, and draw from learners’ own personal experiences?
- Do the activities add value and build skills that will be utilized well beyond the learning environment?
- Are these activities practical and allow students’ to learn from their mistakes?
- Which technologies are available?
- Which technologies will help students achieve course objectives?
- Which technologies will enhance delivery of instruction and positively affect learning outcomes?
The implementation phase is where the “packaged” course, including all content, tools, activities, assessments, and resources are finally delivered to the learners via a specified delivery system.
Before releasing the course, put in place strategies that will orient the learners to the learning environment and give continued support including:
- Providing students with information on how to begin the course while also addressing any important policies and procedures.
- Creating and make available the course syllabus, schedule, and learner support resources.
- Explain and orient students to any communication, collaboration, and assessment tools that will be utilized in the course.
Evaluation is a continuous activity that should be applied throughout all other phases of the ADDIE process. The use of effective formative and summative evaluations will test the overall effectiveness of the course and help you gain insight into any issues or problems that may arise throughout the life of the course. More importantly, you can use this information to revise and improve future instruction.
The ongoing assessment activities that take place during the course are called formative evaluations. These evaluations allow instructors to measure teaching effectiveness and provide timely feedback about student performance and the attainment of specific learning objectives.
Summative evaluations, which happen at the end of a course, assess the overall effectiveness of instruction in relation to attainment of course objectives. These types of assessments will help to improve overall alignment at the module, course and program level.