For this class, I worked on developing an online class. As I already teach online, I worked more on improving my existing course than starting from scratch. The course is a Graphic Design History course. It is mainly for graphic design majors, but may also include non majors. The students are community college students and range in age from 18 to 60. The students have a wide range of computer skills coming into the class.I have uploaded the first five weeks. This is not a fully completed course at this time, but I may add the remainder in the near future. All learning is meant to take place online. The course is organized into weekly modules that contain all materials needed for the week. The first week the course has a start-up session to introduce the students to the course and the structure of the course. If this were a live course, it would stop being the landing page after the first week. At that point, the students would see announcements and other course information.
If you are interested in checking it out, the link is http://kkrcmarik.coursesites.com. You can request your own password/login information or you can login using the generic account I set-up with the following login information:
Designing an online course can be a challenge depending on the material you are trying to teach and the audience you are trying to reach. Some subjects lend themselves well to moving online while others are a struggle to still make the course effective. In my particular case, my Graphic Design History course was fairly easy to move online. The in person version is a more lecture driven class with some hands on activities. Many of the activities translate well to the online environment. I am working with adult learners of all ages and skill sets. I also need to account for students with disabilities because the college has a strong policy on accommodating these students. Many of the learners in my course do not have a high degree of comfort with the computer, so that is also a factor when making decisions. As I started to build my course, I needed to account for all these factors to create my course and make it a successful course.
My courses typically work within constructivist principles. Constructivist learning theory purports that learners should be actively engaged, that activities should be interactive and student-centered, and that the instructor facilitates the process of learning. The student’s learning is self-directed and relies on them to explore their own interests or take on the material instead of just one prescribed approach. My plan was to use this same influence for my online class. The struggle is to make interactive activities for an online class. As I noted, I can have a wide range of skill sets. Unlike with in person classes where I can easly demo and be available to answer questions as problems occur, I have to consider what students can do with minimal frustration and without that level of support. It’s not to say that I don’t provide support, it’s just not the same level of immediate responsiveness. I still work to make the material more user-centered and allow multiple ways to complete assignments so all learning styles and skill levels can successfully complete assignments. For example, the course project’s only requirements are to make a timeline and have at least twenty items on the timeline. The final product that they create is up to them. It could be a poster, a book, a PowerPoint or Prezi presentation, website, or this interactive resource that I found called tiki-toki that builds an interactive timeline with minimal effort. The students are able to choose what the feel most comfortable working with. They are also able to choose the subject of their timeline with the only restriction that it relates to graphic design in some manner. The blogs offer similar options where they can be written or in video/audio format. Students can also opt to not do the blogs and do a traditional set of essays instead. I try make as many items focused on students choosing what they are interested in and having a variety of methods for completion. I feel all these items are consistent with constructivist principles. I also feel this is one of the more effective ways to give students more control over their learning and keep them interested in the material and assignments.
The organization of the materials is almost as important as the materials themselves. My course is organized into weekly modules. I have found that this is the most successful way for the course to work and have students complete work successfully. It also lends itself well to book and topics I want to cover in the class. In the Weekly Modules tab, there is a folder for each week. At the main level, the students can see what tasks will need to be completed that week. This way if students login on day one just to see what they have to do and can plan their time accordingly. Once they click on the folder, they can get complete instructions for all work for the week and links to any materials/resources they may need even if the materials are posted elsewhere in the course. This prevents the hunt for the material that sometimes occurs with online classes. I also have a start-up session as the opening for the course on week 1. It guides students for the basics for the class. After week 1, it is still available, but it no longer is the opening page for the course. Instead, it switches to an announcements page. Students can access the assignments and discussions directly if they so choose. Overall, I feel the course is well organized.
There are a number of obstacles I find in creating a successful online course. First and foremost, the range of skill sets with students is a significant factor to choosing how you will present materials as well as what materials you will use. Even though my college requires students to demonstrate basic computer skills in order to sign-up for online classes, the skill level to which students can execute on a weekly basis comfortably varies greatly. For example, I tried to use PopcornMaker with my online class this semester. Some students loved it, but others struggled greatly which prevented them from completing the activity. I did provide an example of what I expected of them as well as links to tutorials that were pretty informative. This was still not enough for some students. In the classroom I can respond faster and more effectively. I am also more likely to know right away when the student has a problem rather than hours or days later if at all. I struggle to make activities diverse and “fun” while not making them so difficult that students want to give up. It’s a balance I’m still working to perfect. I also think making sure everything is accessible to those with disabilities is a challenge that is ever evolving. There are a number of great resources out there to assist, but it’s still up to the individual instructor to implement. It can be hard when you want to use a third party resource that is not disability friendly. I did eliminate one category of students from my disability accommodation list because I feel it is reasonable to assume that a blind person would not take a class on identifying art. However, I still need to account for those with hearing and physical disabilities. It helps that our college has a strong mission to accommodate these students and offers a whole department dedicated to helping them. This also helps take some of the burden off the instructors, but we still need to consider these students when creating our online courses. I feel these two issues where the biggest hurdles when creating my course.