5 Common Mistakes to Avoid During Online Course Design
Whether you’ve been teaching online for ten years or ten minutes, chances are you’ve made a few mistakes along the way. Below we’ve outlined five common mistakes of online course design and provided suggestions on how you can avoid them.
Mistake #1: You don’t allow enough time to design and build your course.
As a faculty member, you’re busy. You may feel tempted to push course design to the side; however, doing so rushes course development and can causes the quality to suffer.
Suggestion: Begin the course development process at least 16 weeks prior to the course start date, and establish benchmarks to reach along the way. When you begin the course production process early, you can slowly chip away at it while devoting time to other priorities.
Mistake #2 You give in to fear.
Many instructors become nervous prior to building an online course. A little nervousness can motivate you to ensure quality; however, don’t give in to fear too much—it can stunt your progress. Common fears include the following:
- uncertainty of how to accelerate a course
- uncertainty of where to begin
- students cheating
- inadequate time for course design
- inability to match the quality and rigor of face-to-face courses
- uncertainty of how to foster student interaction
Suggestion: Rather than dwelling on your fears, simply begin the course design process. If you do a little at a time (see #1), your fears will begin to vanish.
Mistake #3: You try too many new things at once; you don’t try anything new at all.
Online instructors are introduced to LTIs, OERs, Wikis, and other online learning tools. Some faculty dive in and want to use all of them at once, while others shy away and avoid these tools altogether.
Suggestion: Choose one new tool or resource to use in your course. If it works well, choose an additional tool for the next time you teach the course, and so on.
Mistake #4: You transfer your course online rather than transform your course online.
Quality course design requires you to do more than simply copy and paste content from your face-to-face course. Without rethinking your course design, you increase the possibility that students become disengaged or drop out.
Suggestion: Maintain the quality and rigor of a face-to-face course while accommodating areas of course design that affect student learning:
- Multimedia—Avoid recording hour-long lectures, which fail to maintain students’ attention; lectures for online courses should only be 4-5 minutes
- Accelerating Courses—To prevent burnout and content overload, avoid cramming all of the content from your 15-week, face-to-face course into the 7-week, online version. See 10 Proven Steps to Accelerate Your Online Course.
- Interaction—Don’t assume that interaction will automatically take place like it does in a face-to-face classroom. Include the three types of interaction that foster student engagement.
- Organization—Since you don’t have traditional class time to clear up confusion and make announcements, you must be explicit and organized in your course design (e.g., navigation) and communication (e.g., directions, assignment expectations, due dates).
Mistake #5: You don’t use rubrics.
Rubrics are vital in an online environment because they
- give clear direction for students when completing assignments and discussions.
- prevent confusion among students.
- prevent your inbox from filling up with assignment questions.
- ensure consistency when grading the same assignment.
Suggestion: Include rubrics for every assessment in your course. For help with rubrics, check out How to Save Time Developing Rubrics.
Have you made any of these design mistakes? What other common mistakes would you tell others to avoid as they design their online course?