Teaching your expertise online can bring you new friends, new money, more knowledge in your own field and a network of new colleagues. You already have experience and expert skills in your field that other people would love to learn. Whether your expertise is marketing, journalism and media, or book keeping, there are people out there who are just starting out and are looking for someone further along the path to guide them. Here are seven concrete steps you can take to set up a smooth running course that people will love.
1. Start with the end in mind
One of the most influential habits from 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey is start with the end in mind which is also the main principle of backwards design. When beginning any course design or redesign, ask yourself these questions:
- Where should my students be by the end of this course?
- What skills, habits, practices and connections should they have made?
- What would be the outcomes for students?
Depending on the size of the course, a 12 session course might have 4-6 major achievable, observable and measurable learning outcomes. From there, you could define units with sub-outcomes that work towards or achieve 1-2 of the major outcomes. Then breaking it down further into course content and enabling activities.
2. Create authentic assessment or self-assessment
Creating the assessment as the second step is borrowed from test-driven development in IT and saves a significant amount of time and effort when creating an online course. Firstly, by focusing on the assessment first, you will be able to quickly and easily tie it directly to the learning outcomes (while they are still fresh in your mind) saving a lot of design time. The assessment, like the outcomes, should be assessing real world skills, application, analysis, evaluation and creation skills (rather than the straight recall of knowledge). If your student had to do or produce something in the real world (without the aid of your course), what would that task be? Have your students do or produce that or a miniature version of that task for assessment. Finally, create rubrics, checklists or self-assessment questions that would assess the level of expertise or performance for that task.
3. Design active learning and scaffold into steps (cognitive presence)
All activities throughout the course should work towards assessment which are assessing the learning outcomes through means of scaffolding the learner from beginner to advanced while practising the new skill and getting peer and instructor feedback. To achieve this, break down the learning objectives into units, then lessons, and finally into enabling activities in bite-sized chunks that elicit active exploration and critical thinking through application.
Assignments and learning experiences that use analysis, evaluation and creation skills help students build proficiency and skill. Begin by providing scenarios, problems and challenges and provide the content or have the students find the content at the right teachable moment (just-in-time) making each learning experience much more memorable.
When putting together the units of the course, always remember the 3 part rule of introduction, body and conclusion. Introduce the unit, what they will learn and most importantly, why these learning objectives are important. Scaffold the learning activities into steps or challenges with increasing difficulty that include practice, peer and teacher feedback and assessment or self-assessment. To help students connect core concepts to learning experience, summarize each module at the end of the unit and offer a preview of the next module, laying the groundwork for new concepts and skills.