Online courses enrollment is growing and growing. In 2018, nearly seven million students enrolled in online courses. In 2020, 82% of K-12 students attended schools that offered some type of remote instruction. What makes a good, quality online course though? We know that there are standards for evaluating good teaching practice, but online is different. It requires the integration of technology, communication and learning which isn’t the same as traditional in classes. Evaluating what makes an effective online course has to be based on different criteria.
How do you decide then what is the model for effectiveness? Is it how many high grades there are or how many students pass? Is it the course that has the best post-course evaluations? Is it the most attractive course or who has the most enrollees per semester? How about the most technical with fancy software or links? We should take-into-account best practice and then design accordingly based on the needs of students and the institution. What makes a good online course should fit into the overarching assessment goals of the school and school strategies.
Opinions about what makes a good and effective course vary. According to some, student faculty contact, technology application, collaborative learning, diversified learning, active learning, a course in miracles expectations, time on task and prompt feedback should be included and reviewed in a quality online course. Others list that is proper pacing for students to learn and work appropriately. Good courses provide a sense of community where students interact with others, ask questions and form peer groups. They also include multimedia such as videos, interactive activities, podcasts and have built-in opportunities for self-directed learning. Courses should be easy to navigate, have alternative exploration routes for students who might want to learn more and appeal to all learning styles and needs.
Is it the technology that makes a good course? It is often tempting to include many high-tech elements in a course. Good courses however avoid having too much technology because it can be overwhelming and actually detract from learning. Some say including videos in your course makes it good. Videos in courses allow an instructor to create a sense of presence in an online course and provide information in useable, smaller retainable chunks. They also encourage designing courses with accessibility and data collection in mind to measure and analyze opportunities for improvement.