Teaching an Online Course You Did Not Design

You’ve been notified by your department chair or dean you will be teaching a new to you online course in the upcoming semester. The dean/chair knows you have not taught the course before but tells you, “Don’t worry! It’s already been designed and developed. You only need to teach it.”

Of course, you’ll worry. You’re already asking yourself questions: How was the course designed? Will I be able to follow the design? Will I be able to add/modify the course to add my own personality or expertise in the topics in the course?

The purpose of this paper is to help you better understand how you can approach teaching an online course you did not design. You’ll see a list of actions and steps you can take to ensure the course is a quality course you can teach.

Here are the few first steps upon learning you will be teaching an online course you did not design.

Review Content Closely

First, depending on the amount of time before the course is scheduled to start, request a copy of the course put into a development shell in your LMS so you can review and revise it as needed. Verify you have access to the online course/classroom in the development shell.

Second, review the course outline (if available), course syllabus, program, and course calendar to ensure you understand the flow of the course.

Third, review the entire curriculum, including the module introduction pages and grading policies. Also, review course materials such as assigned textbooks, lectures, articles, and websites. Making connections with all the elements of the course is important to be able to answer questions about the materials.

Now that you have reviewed the course to understand its contents and flow, it’s time to consider some revisions/updates.

Make Revisions & Updates

Consider adding resources you find particularly powerful or engaging. You can add resources without adding to the student workload or making significant revisions to the course or existing assignments dependent upon readings and lectures that are already present.

As you review the course and module overviews, lectures, and summary pages, consider adding to the directive text on these pages to add your voice. It’s an easy way to add your personality/thumbprint to the course without making changes. You can use this opportunity to ask provoking questions, add anecdotes from your own related experiences, or add important comments/narratives to help students engage and connect with the content. All of this adds your touch and instructor presence to the course.

Update the course in the LMS with your instructor biography information on the Meet Your Faculty page. Adding a photo, relevant biographical information and preferred pronouns help the students know you better. List your preferred method of contact, response time to emails, and feedback time on assignments. (Add this to your syllabus, too). Add your instant notification and email notification preferences to your LMS settings, if available.

Prepare to Teach

Now that you have updated the course content, it’s time to make the course more like you.

Write a welcome email to your students to send the evening before or morning of the class start. The message can include a short introduction to you, the course, and any important topics you want them to know about, such as the textbook, course syllabus, etc.

Post an announcement prior to the course opening welcoming the students to your course. You can direct them to read the course syllabus and post their own introductions to the discussion forum. (You will want to respond to each student’s introduction. It’s a great way to start that sense of community!)

Create a personal welcome to the course video and add it to the About This Course page. Keep it simple. You can even use your cell phone to record it! Welcome students to the class and highlight your credentials/qualifications for the course. Add your interests, hobbies, preferred contact information, and a short course overview. If another instructor’s video lectures are used in the course, you may want to add that some lecture material is provided by another faculty member in the department.

Plan announcements in each module. Announcements are a great way to connect with your students and add to your presence and teaching style to the course. You might ask questions at the beginning of each module to have students focus on particular aspects of the course content. You can also post the main takeaways at the end of the module in the summary. These are easy ways to add your expertise, opinions, and perspectives to the content.

Once you have updated the course, switch over to the Student View of your LMS to check the course navigation from a student’s perspective. Make sure students see what you expect them to see. Hide content from student view that you prefer they do not see/have access to. Keep the navigation simple—make only the essential tools visible.

Finally, reset all due dates for assignments for the term. Verify old dates are not listed in the instructions for assignments, assessments, or discussions.

You’re ready for the new term!

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