Whether you are developing a new course or innovating an existing one, IU will support you in crafting an engaging, student-focused classroom—online. Additionally, IU has resources to help you coordinate both informal and formal course reviews by your peers.
Course life cycle
Designing a quality online course
Where do I start?
Start with the end in mind: the desired, measurable learning outcomes for your students. For example, by stating, “By the end of this course, students will be able to...analyze Mary Shelley's Frankenstein using a feminist lens; or calculate the spreading rate between two tectonic plates,” you will find it much easier to focus your course assessments, activities, content, and even your students!
Active and interactive learning
What can my students "do" online?
Learning activities that require students to actively do something thoughtful with the concepts in your course (individually, in pairs, or groups) improves learning and knowledge retention. By working and struggling with real problems in your field, students can get a true window into your discipline and its greater significance. Students can do all kinds of thoughtful activities—even group work—online through technology innovation.
How do I know my students are learning?
Online tools offer you—the faculty member—an unprecedented view into your students’ thought processes, challenges, and strengths; this increases student accountability in ways that exceed what we can expect in the physical classroom. In a face-to-face classroom, for example, a certain percentage of students rely on being physically present, nodding and making eye contact to indicate to you that they are following along. You may rely heavily on body language to identify confusion. In the virtual classroom, presence is only confirmed through action, so passive students are compelled to participate more fully, reducing the burden on you to interpret body language to determine when your pedagogical strategies are effective.
Because you don’t always have the traditional opportunities for regular, in-class, informal checks on your students’ understanding, it is especially important that you design your online course to give students the opportunity to provide evidence of what they know and can do. It is important to initiate regular check-ins more formally. A variety of low-stakes assessments such as short quizzes, problem sets, discussion questions, or essays, delivered frequently, often in combination with long-term projects, and/or comprehensive exams or papers—can help you stay in touch with where your students are throughout the semester and create a culture of accountability where students expect to and are comfortable actively delivering evidence of their learning throughout the semester.
How can I make, find, and use online resources?
Your content provides the necessary information and tools that students need to complete activities and reach learning outcomes. While it can be easy to find and add more and more content to an online course, it's important to ensure that content supports the learning outcomes you first identified. Canvas facilitates the inclusion of a variety of content types, from simple text and images on a page, to lectures, eTexts, and interactive content. A variety of content types can be pulled into a module and delivered to students as a seamless experience. For assistance in creating and curating content for your online course, visit your campus teaching center (which regularly hold workshops related to building courses in Canvas) or browse Canvas content help documents in the IU Knowledge Base. It may also be helpful to consult with colleagues or browse open educational resources in Canvas Commons.
By immersing students in online material instead of in a classroom, my classroom and lab activities that were built around a lot of students have become a lot of activities built around a single student. Add in group experimental space, now everyone is doing—students can’t passively observe as their peers take care of it for them.Joung Yeon "JY" Kim, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Accounting, School of Business, IU Kokomo
Refining your course
What can I do to be more innovative?
The digital classroom has no walls. Students can move quickly from a prompt or question to real-world, dynamic resources to help them problem solve. They can reach out to each other easily to collaborate and they can access experts in the discipline in ways that were not feasible in the past. Innovation can be as simple as directing students to reach into the Internet to solve case studies with real data found online (such as current geological or CDC data) or as complex as providing interactive learning objects that mimic expensive equipment that students would otherwise be unable to afford. At IU, faculty have delivered virtual field trips, online circuit simulations, searchable databases for clinical case studies, virtual interview and counseling practice, online interactives that allow students to test hypotheses, “choose your own adventure” learning paths, and many more innovations that allow students to dive into the content and take ownership of their own learning. Innovation should always be closely tied to your learning outcomes; think about what you would really like your students to be able to do in a perfect world, then imagine how technology can move them out of a physical room where you deliver the content and into a complex, global environment where they explore, investigate, and evaluate the content and report back to you for guidance.
What can I do to improve existing online courses?
IU Online courses represent faculty expertise and passion across diverse disciplines, schools, and campuses. While every course is different because it reflects the individual personality and scholarly focus of the professor teaching it, we also look for a consistent level of quality.
To this end, some schools and departments have established an internal review process intended to ensure that all their online courses live up to the school or department’s academic reputation, as well as to showcase innovations and inspire all their faculty to engage more deeply in the online space.
Informal review processes have included school or department internal peer reviews, teaching center consultations, cross-discipline or cross-campus peer reviews, and “ongoing improvement” or “innovation” weeks in which faculty come together to set shared expectations, as well as mentor each other and share resources.
IU also provides nationally recognized external tools to support online course and program quality.
It’s hard to understand the crippling limitations of a face-to-face course until you start developing an online course—you can be unapologetically online. Students can be immediately transported anywhere, the entire Internet is your textbook, and students can interact with the material in any way imaginable.Ben Motz, Senior Lecturer and Director of Undergraduate Instruction, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, IU Bloomington