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Course Mapping Elements

A course map is an overview of your proposed course. It comprises a brief description of the course, the instructional objectives or outcomes, the estimated time to complete each objective, the topics to be covered, the sequence of the topics, the course material, the instructional strategies, the learning resources, the reference resources, and the assessments procedures.

For a downloadable course map, click one of the links below, depending on the length of your course.

Course Map – 5 Week Format

Course Map – 6 Week Format

Course Map – 7 Week Format

Course Map – 8 Week Format

Please see below for each element of the course map, an overview, tips, examples, and additional resources to help you complete your course map:

Topic

The Topic will be the title of each week/module. It should be succinct but also be able to identify the main topic(s) that will be covered during the module/week.

Examples

Module 1: Introduction to Community Health Nursing and the Health Care System
Module 1: Theory of Organization

 

Overview and Weekly Objectives

The Module Overview page helps set the stage for what students can expect to experience and learn in this segment of the course. This page consists of three components: Module Overview, Weekly Objectives, and a To-Do List.

Module Overview

Providing students a module overview of the material is a great way to introduce the main themes or concepts. Include a paragraph or two that introduces the module content to help spark interest and provide students with context that will help them engage with the material. Share something that will bring a real-world quality or perspective to their learning. Perhaps offer some personal thought or experience. Consider a short supplemental audio or video clip to complement any text you include in the overview. However, you will need to make sure any audio and video has a text alternative so that students with audio and visual challenges are able to access it.

Addresses the following Quality Matters Standards:

  • QM 1.1: Instructions make clear how to get started and where to find various course components.
  • QM 1.2: Students are introduced to the purpose and structure of the course.

Additional Resources

Click here for more Module Overview tips.

Weekly Objectives

Learning objectives play an important role in designing instruction of any type. Clearly defined learning objectives and goals provide the foundation and scope for the instructional design, development, delivery, and assessment of an effective learning experience. Learning objectives should be accompanied by measurable outcomes that describe ways in which students can demonstrate that they have achieved the learning objectives. Instruction is only successful to the degree that it accomplishes what it sets out to accomplish. Learning objectives form the basis for what is to be learned and keep students aware of what they should be able to do when they complete a module or unit of instruction. A well-stated learning objective is always expressed in terms of the learner (focuses on what the learner needs to know, not the instructor). It is precise and supports only one interpretation, it describes an observable behavior, it specifies conditions under which the behavior is performed, and it specifies criteria for accomplishment. Measurable module or unit learning objectives precisely describe the specific competencies, skills, and knowledge that students should be able to master and demonstrate at regular intervals throughout the course.

Addresses the following Quality Matters Standards:

  • QM 2.2: The module/unit learning objectives describe outcomes that are measurable and consistent with the course-level objectives.
  • QM 2.3: All learning objectives are stated clearly and written from the students’ perspective.
  • QM 2.5: The learning objectives are appropriately designed for the level of the course.

Tips

  • Objectives describe what learners will be able to do at the end of a unit of instruction and provide clear reasons for learning the material. Write objectives that describe the intended result of a learning module rather than the process of the instruction itself.
  • Always state objectives in terms of what the learner will be able to think, do, or feel as a result of instruction.
  • Measurable objectives state the conditions of performance and the minimum degree of acceptable performance.
  • Objectives usually appear in a bullet list preceded by a stem sentence that communicates the end point by which the objectives will be achieved.
  • Objectives are phrased in succinct, simple sentences, and begin with a specific action verb. The action verb should suggest the form of assessment to be used to determine whether the objective has been met. Avoid using vague words such as “understand,” “know,” or “appreciate.” These words are too broad and do not appropriately communicate expectations to students.

Examples

By the conclusion of this module, students will be able to:

  • Outline & summarize the major principles of genetics.
  • Compare & contrast the basic principles of mitosis and meiosis, and how they are related to life cycle of organisms.
  • Define & appraise energy and entrophy in light of the laws of thermodynamics.
  • Analyze & describe the mechanisms of inheritance and the process by which protein and DNA are synthesized.
  • Identify & distinguish major ecological concepts such as communities, energy flow, and nutrient cycling.

Additional Resources

Tips for Writing Learning Objectives (PDF)
Learning Objectives: Building a Solid Foundation for Your Course
Alignment: A Proven Method to Help Students Achieve Learning Goals

To-Do List

To help keep students on task, include a To-Do list that students can refer to or print out. All the activities the student needs to complete for the module should be included on the To-Do list as well as anything that has a deadline associated with it, such as assignments, discussion postings, and quizzes. You can even add a suggested time on task for each item, and also suggested deadlines for completing required readings. The list should be written out in the order that the activities are presented in the module and should be detailed enough so that students know exactly what needs to be completed for the module.

Addresses the following Quality Matters Standards:

  • QM 1.1: Instructions make clear how to get started and where to find various course components.
  • QM 2.4: Instructions to students on how to meet the learning objectives are adequate and stated clearly.

Example

Module One consists of the following tasks and assignments:

  • Take the Pre-Course Self-Evaluation Assessment.
  • Read the article, How to Build an Online Course.
  • Read Chapters 1 and 2 in your textbook, How to Create Online Courses.
  • Read Lecture Notes included in this module.
  • Watch the video, “Blackboard Mobile Learn for iPad.”
  • Take the Mid-Module Self-Check.
  • Complete and submit the Module One Assignment.
  • Participate in the Module One Discussion Board.
  • Take the Week One Exam.

 

Multimedia/Micro-Lectures

Students in online courses are accustomed to multisensory inputs via computers, tablets, and cell phones— these students tend to be adept at finding resources and media on any subject. You can enhance your online course by offering multiple forms of media: webcam videos of you demonstrating how to do (or not to do) something, “whiteboard” video of charting a topic or solving a problem, or the typical “talking head” videos of yourself or voice-over slides. More importantly, you can save time by using existing open-licensed videos, such as TEDx and YouTube.

Addresses the following Quality Matters and Sloan-Consortium Standards:

  • QM 4.1: The instructional materials contribute to the achievement of the stated course and module/unit learning objectives.
  • QM 4.2: The purpose of instructional materials and how the materials are to be used for learning activities are clearly explained.
  • QM 4.3: All resources and materials used in the course are appropriately cited.
  • QM 4.4: The instructional materials are current.
  • QM 4.5: The instructional materials present a variety of perspectives on the course content.
  • Sloan-C: Instructional materials are easily accessible and easy to use for the student.
  • QM 6.1: The tools and media support the course learning objectives.
  • QM 6.2: Course tools and media support student engagement and guide the student to become an active learner.
  • QM 6.4: Students can readily access the technologies required in the course.
  • QM 6.5: The course technologies are current.
  • QM 8.1: The course employs accessible technologies and provides guidance on how to obtain accommodation.
  • QM 8.2: The course contains equivalent alternatives to auditory and visual content.
  • QM 8.4: The course design accommodates the use of assistive technologies.

 General Multimedia

  • The use of multimedia provides technology tools to create a variety of learning strategies that helps to accommodate specific learning styles.
  • All multimedia (content that includes audio, video, podcasts, images, illustrations, charts and graphs, simulations, and games) should contribute to the achievement of the course/module learning objectives. 
  • When selecting multimedia, the student should be able to easily determine the purpose of the content and how it will help them achieve the stated learning objectives. 
  • Always include the source of the multimedia content by identifying the creator/source and any applicable credentials. Use proper citations where applicable.

Video and Audio

  • The use of audio and video adds a personal touch, provides a custom, real-world experience for students, and builds in redundancy to clarify difficult concepts.
  • When linking to or embedding video or audio clips, it is important to provide students with a link to the media player such as flash, real media, or quick time. Video clips on YouTube do not require a player since YouTube is its own player.
  • Keep audio and video segments short (2-5 minutes) in length. Lengthy videos can be tiresome and should not appear as another task for students to complete.
  • Include a text transcript with audio to make the audio information accessible to people with hearing impairments.
  • Close caption video/audio should adhere to Section 508: ADA Compliance.

Images

  • Images should always include alternative text or descriptions to make images accessible for people with visual impairments and for screen reader users.
  • Common image formats accepted by most learning management systems include JPEG, GIF, and PNG files. Make sure your images are saved in one of these formats.

Hyperlinks

  • Check hyperlinks to make sure they are working and correct.
  • Links to external websites should indicate the purpose of the links or the links should be completely self-evident. Whenever possible, it is best to add the readings to the courses files. This reduces the risk of having to update broken links or materials that are no longer accessible.
  • When linking to multimedia content outside of the Learning Management System, hyperlink text should be self-describing to accommodate Section 508: ADA Compliance. Self-describing links do not include linking the words “Click on” or “Click here.” The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Webpage  provides more detail information on self-describing links.

Examples of Microlectures

Additional Resources

 

Readings

Readings don’t have to be just textbooks! Remember to list journals, websites, publisher materials, or websites that were bundled with the textbook, or blogs you may want students to utilize.   When you have a lot of readings, separating them onto their own page in the learning module can be helpful to students. Remember, if you are listing websites, it is recommended that you annotate them. We also recommend clearly noting which readings are required and which are supplemental. By separating in this manner, students who may need the extra resources will be able to identify what further information is available to them.

Addresses the following Quality Matters and Sloan-Consortium Standards:

  • QM 4.1: The instructional materials contribute to the achievement of the stated course and module/unit learning objectives.
  • QM 4.2: The purpose of instructional materials and how the materials are to be used for learning activities are clearly explained.
  • QM 4.3: All resources and materials used in the course are appropriately cited.
  • QM 4.4: The instructional materials are current.
  • QM 4.5: The instructional materials present a variety of perspectives on the course content.
  • QM 4.6 The distinction between required and optional materials is explained.
  • Sloan-C: Instructional materials are easily accessible and easy to use for the student.

Tips

  • All readings should contribute to the achievement of the course/module learning objectives. When selecting your readings, the student should be able to easily determine the purpose of the content and how it will help them achieve the stated learning objectives. Links to external websites should indicate the purpose of the links or the links are completely self-evident. Whenever possible, it is best to add the readings to the courses files. This reduces the risk of having to update broken links or materials that are no longer accessible.
  • Always include the source of the reading by using proper citations. 
  • When linking to an article/journal/eBook or any resource outside of the Learning Management System, hyperlink text should be self-describing to accommodate Section 508: ADA Compliance. Self-describing links do not include linking the words “Click on” or “Click here”. Below are some examples of how to and how NOT to link to a reading. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Webpage provides more detail on self-describing links.
  • What is the purpose of including the word “Citation:” before the actual citation? This is to help identify the citation to each specific reading. It also warns screen reader users that a citation is about to be read. Since citations can sometimes be long and include many characters, this provides a chance for screen reader users to skip over the citation.

Open Educational Resources

With the cost of textbooks and tuition on the rise, the necessity of incorporating Open Educational Resources (OERs) into curricula for all ages and all levels of education is undeniable. Please see below for additional resources regarding OERs.

Additional Resources

Open Educational Resources Guide
OER and Open Source Textbooks

How to Conduct a Successful OER Search with Google
How to Find Creative Commons Licensed Material on Media Sharing Sites
Wiley & Green Share the Latest in OER and Creative Commons
Tips for Module Readings

 

Discussion Board

Discussion boards are the core of many online courses and play a key role in bringing a human element into the online classroom. Ask thought-provoking, content-related questions to foster participation and information exchange between the students and instructor.

Online discussions and interactions are significant in course design and play important roles in the transformation from face-to-face environments to the online classroom. They could also become time- consuming and overwhelming for both students and instructors without proper planning and structure.

Addresses the following Quality Matters and Sloan-Consortium Standards:

  • QM 1.8: Students are asked to introduce themselves to the class.
  • QM 5.2: Learning activities provide opportunities for interaction that support active learning.
  • QM 5.4: The requirements for student interaction are clearly articulated.
  • SLOAN-C QS: Opportunities/tools are provided to encourage student-student collaboration (i.e., web conferencing, instant messaging, etc.) if appropriate.
  • SLOAN-C QS: Faculty-to-Student interaction is facilitated through a variety of ways.

Tips

  1. Provide your discussion board expectations, and use a grading rubric. Students need guidance in how much to say and the specific expectations and formats of their posts. Consider providing “model” posts as well as the rubric to guide students’ posts.
  2. Establish and state deadlines to initiate interactions and keep them going. Set the first deadline to occur in the middle of the week for students to post their initial response. Set a second deadline for students to respond to two of their classmates’ postings. This will eliminate students waiting until the last minute to post their responses and provide opportunities for a lively discussion where students can learn from each other.
  3. Post sparingly and strategically. Do not comment on every student posting. Allow students time to participate and develop their conversations with each other without too much interaction, comments, feedback, or analysis from you. Intervene if you see the discussion either lacking progress or moving off-track. If you see a particularly good post, make a quick comment about it so that students will learn to recognize and repeat such quality. If you see a particularly poor post, contact that student independently to provide additional guidance and encouragement.

Additional Resources

Tips for Discussions
Ed Tech du Jour: Using the Collaborations Tools within Canvas
Ed Tech du Jour: Building Community in an Online Course
9 strategies to Ensure Successful Course Discussions
3 Types of Interaction that Foster Student Engagement
An Easy Method for Building Relationships in Online Courses
3 Ways to Enrich Your Online Course Discussions
Discussion Board Dos and Donts: A Handout for Your Students


Assignments

Course design aligned with competencies and outcomes are essential in an online classroom (Palloff and Pratt, 2009). As you design the content of the course, think about assessment methods, including assignments that you want to incorporate to measure student learning in a more authentic way than the use of quizzes or exams.

Assignments should take into consideration the online audience – typically adult learners. Experts in the field of adult learning recommend these considerations, among others:

  • Inclusion of real-world and real-work problems that complement the learning content — adult learning employs learners’ experiences so they go from what they know to what they don’t know.
  • Encouragement of decision-making, problem solving, formulation of inferences and calculation of plausibility — adults learn from applied experience as related to content and theory.
  • Inclusion of practice in evaluating viewpoints.   (Knowles, Holton, and Swanson, 1998)

Rubrics are a very important component of assessment, ensuring a clear understanding on the part of the student of what you are expecting in an activity or assessment. Both students and instructors benefit from rubrics, as instructions are clear for students, and grading is made easier for instructors.

 Addresses the following Quality Matters Standards:

  • QM 3.1: The types of assessments selected measure the stated learning objectives and are consistent with course activities and resources.
  • QM 3.3: Specific and descriptive criteria are provided for the evaluation of students’ work and participation, for example grading rubrics.
  • QM 3.4: The assessment instruments selected are sequenced, varied, and appropriate to the student work being assessed.
  • QM 3.5: Students have multiple opportunities to measure their own learning progress.

Tips

1. Include specific instructions. Think about the types of questions that arise in face-to-face classes regarding assignments, and proactively address any potential questions with explicit instructions.

2. Utilize (or allow students to utilize) pre-existing forms, formats, or protocols.
Application assignments should mirror professional practice, so either provide guidelines for producing professional-type papers, reports, projects, etc., or encourage students to emulate those used in their current workplace.

3. Use a scoring rubric. You will be more likely to get the types of submissions you expect if your scoring rubric is specific, including levels of performance. See “Tips for Rubrics” for additional information and suggestions.

4. Give students a schedule for when they will receive feedback/grades for their assignments. They will be anxious for such information, so be proactive in providing a timeline that is comfortable for you. Keep in mind that the best situation is for students to receive feedback for one assignment before needing to submit another.

Additional Resources

Tips for Module Assignments
Tips for Rubrics
Bloom’s Digital Pyramid
How to Save Time Developing Rubrics

 

Assessments

Self-Assessments

Self-assessments can be used throughout the course to vary the pace of student learning. With self-assessments, students can track their progress to ensure they have mastered the course information. Practice provides students with the opportunity to master course materials before proceeding to the next level of instruction. For example, quizzes in the LMS allow the student to get immediate feedback on their mastery of the content and to continue to the next level. If a student fails to master or understand the information, they can identify difficulties they are experiencing and either ask for help or continue in their practice of the materials. Self-assessments have the following advantages in an online course:

  • Keeps students tuned into where they are in the learning process
  • Help students pace their learning
  • Serve as a tool for learner reflection
  • Reinforce understandings (another form of built-in redundancy)
  • Actively engage students in the course content
  • Provide instantaneous feedback on their progress

Addresses the following Quality Matters Standards:

  • QM 3.1: The types of assessments selected measure the stated learning objectives and are consistent with course activities and resources.
  • QM 3.4: The assessment instruments selected are sequenced, varied, and appropriate to the student work being assessed.
  • QM 3.5: Students have multiple opportunities to measure their own learning progress.

Additional Resources

Ed Tech du Jour: Strategies for Retaining Online Students

Multiple-Choice Assessments

Although many instructors prefer assessing learning with “authentic” assessments – open-ended assignments, projects, or presentations that require students to apply their learning to “real-life” or professional situations and products – those can be time-consuming to grade. Some instructors use a combination of “authentic” assessments and weekly quizzes to efficiently assess learning in a number of ways.

One of the concerns with objective-type quizzes is academic dishonesty. Several of the tips below can minimize the opportunity for cheating, but cannot guarantee its prevention. A 2010 study in the Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration found that 32.7% of online students self-reported cheating at least once on a test, compared to 32.1% of those in on-campus classes. Interestingly, though slightly more students admitted to cheating in on-line courses related to the overall statements, for almost every individual survey statement, more students admitted to inappropriate behavior in face-to-face classes than in on-line courses. (http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/spring131/watson131.html )

Addresses the following Quality Matters Standards:

  • QM 3.1: The types of assessments selected measure the stated learning objectives and are consistent with course activities and resources.
  • QM 3.4: The assessment instruments selected are sequenced, varied, and appropriate to the student work being assessed.
  • QM 3.5: Students have multiple opportunities to measure their own learning progress.

 Tips

  1. Write questions that assess more than recall. Check out the “Tips for Writing Multiple- Choice Items” resource provided below.
  2. Create more questions aligned to objectives than needed, then have the LMS randomly select questions. As you create quiz items, group them by objective in your LMS testing platform. Take the time to write a few extra questions for each objective, then use the randomizing feature of the LMS to automatically create a “custom” quiz for each student.
  3. Randomize answer choices. This is an easy way to minimize academic dishonesty if your LMS has this feature. If so, do not use verbiage such as “all of the above,” or check to see if your LMS can allow you to designate a particular choice as the last one.
  4. Establish quiz releases, deadlines, and timing. Minimizing the “open window” for a quiz will force students to take the quiz in a tighter space of time, thus decreasing the opportunity to share information about the quiz. However, keep in mind that your students may have varying work schedules and may reside in different time zones. A reasonable “open window” for a module quiz might be 24 hours, but you can decide based upon your own circumstances and professional opinion. 

    Set a limited time for the student to complete the quiz once it has begun. Be sure to allow sufficient time to carefully read and consider the questions and choices; some of your students may be taking the quiz in non-native language, which might cause slower reading. If you have students with documented learning disabilities or challenges, you may need to allow additional time for those students to complete each quiz. Check with your university for suggestions on how to handle such cases.
    Be sure that all quiz protocols are explained carefully in the online instructions and the course syllabus.
  5. Establish an environment of academic integrity. Include your university academic honesty policy in the “Start Here” module. You may also include a statement such as the one below in the instructions for each quiz: 
“Submission of this quiz indicates my understanding of the academic honesty policy and my verification that all responses are my own.”
  6. Use quiz data to improve both the quiz and the course. Not only are auto-graded quizzes easy to administer in online courses, they can provide rich performance data. Utilize the analytics features of your LMS to find out which questions may need revision or which objectives may need different or additional instructional efforts.

Additional Resources

Tips for Writing Multiple-Choice Items
Academic Honesty and Cheating on Online Course Exams