Planning to teach a quality course remotely from start to finish can be overwhelming. In addition to module objectives, assignments, and accessible course materials, you face the hard work of engaging your students and maintaining your "presence" in an environment that may be unfamiliar to you and your students. A focus on a few key strategies will help you approach some of the more challenging areas of quality course design and encourage student success in the process.
If you're new to Canvas, Zoom, or Kaltura, see Emergency Online Instruction for some simple tips to get you started.
1. Start with a course template.
One way to promote quality online instruction in your course is to use a course template. By copying the ODL Quality Course Shell into your Canvas course site, you’ll automatically build your course on selected quality standards based on the nationally recognized Quality Matters rubric. Your course will be easier for students to navigate and positioned to yield better learning outcomes and a better student experience.
- Import the ODL Quality Course Shell. Get step-by-step instructions for importing ODL’s course template into your Canvas course site.
- Update Your Canvas Syllabus. Learn how to import a syllabus template into your course site or update your existing syllabus to include revised university policies.
- Quality Remote Teaching: The Big Picture Webinar. The following workshop was recorded during our Summer 2020 Remote Teaching Course Enhancement program. In this one-hour webinar, you'll get a big-picture overview of six strategies for quality remote instruction. You'll learn more about the Quality Matters rubric, how it aligns with the ODL Quality Course Shell (also referred to as the ODL master course template) in Canvas, and how to download the course shell from Canvas Commons.
2. Organize your course for student success.
Instructors are well acquainted with writing course objectives. A greater challenge can come when breaking down objectives into weekly or module-level elements. In online courses, module-level objectives are critical to delivering instruction that meets quality standards. Ideally, module-level objectives are aligned with the materials, activities, and assessments. Like a study guide for the unit, they help students focus their learning in the way the instructor intended.
- Writing Learning Outcomes. Start here to brush up on your skills for well-written student learning objectives.
- Course Planning Worksheet. Use this simple worksheet to organize your course goals into weekly topics or modules and identify course materials, activities, and assessments that align with your course objectives.
- Module Overview Template. Divide and map your content into modules using the Module Overview Template in Canvas.
- Organize for Student Success Webinar. The following workshop was recorded during our Summer 2020 Remote Teaching Course Enhancement program. In this one-hour, hands-on webinar, you'll learn how to create measurable, module-level objectives, use objectives to align your instructional content, and organize your course content in Canvas with the Module Overview Template and Multi-Tool.
3. Design effective assessments.
When assessing students, avoid high-stakes testing when possible. Consider using assignments like papers, presentations, portfolios, and multimedia projects to measure your course’s learning outcomes. These can provide a realistic picture of what your students have mastered and serve as an alternative to proctored testing. You can also convert a high-stakes test into several low-stakes quizzes. When quizzes count for less of the overall grade, they function as an opportunity for periodic check-ins with students and can lay the foundation for a more robust, authentic assessment of student learning. When high-stakes testing is unavoidable, an online proctoring service can substitute for some of the security typically provided by in-person proctored testing. Be sure to design assessments well and know that some students may experience problems with reliable internet connections, equipment, or other issues that make online proctored testing difficult or impossible.
- Online Alternatives to In-person Proctored Exams. Consider alternatives to proctored testing like open-book tests, discussion forums, student portfolios and multimedia presentations, and online simulations and labs.
- Robust Assessments. Get help creating and designing assessments, including how to ensure test integrity and security, write multiple-choice items, and promote academic integrity.
- Online Proctored Testing. When alternate assessment strategies aren’t feasible, learn how to use the Honorlock online proctoring service for an alternative to in-person proctored testing.
- Assignments, Rubrics & Gradebook Webinar. The following workshop was recorded during our Summer 2020 Remote Teaching Course Enhancement program. Learn how to make different types of assignments in Canvas, how to calculate student grades using group weights, and how to develop rubrics for assignments and discussions.
4. Engage your learners with online activities.
With a little extra planning and creativity, you can engage students in the remote learning environment much as you would in a traditional classroom. Course discussion boards, the use of breakout rooms in tools like Zoom, and student video projects are popular tools for engagement. Students can introduce themselves to each other; comment in response to prompts and other students; and post assignments like videos, presentations, and papers for group review and feedback.
- Options for Engagement in Online Courses. Get ideas from the University Curriculum Committee and Distance Learning Committee for designing online instructor-student and student-student interactions.
- Designing Online Discussion Activities. Get tips for planning and leading discussions, some sample discussion questions, and a rubric template for evaluating discussion board posts.
- Tools for Student Collaboration. With web conferencing tools like Zoom and Canvas Conferences (BigBlueButton), you can divide students into groups to work on assignments together and hold virtual meetings.
- Student Video Projects. Foster student creativity and engagement by offering options to do video assignments. The completed videos can be uploaded into a discussion board where others can view and comment, or they can be used as assignments and graded.
- Engage Learners with Online Activities Webinar. The following workshop was recorded during our Summer 2020 Remote Teaching Course Enhancement program. Learn how to engage your students through course discussion boards, student video projects, and more.
5. Provide course materials in a variety of formats.
Relying on principles of universal design in your course design helps ensure that all students can access your course content. It’s your responsibility to make sure your course documents are accessible to students. ODL has a wide variety of resources to help, and FSU Libraries is a great resource for finding journal articles, textbooks, and media in accessible formats. In addition, adopting open and affordable course materials will save students time and money, increase first-day access to required course materials, and ease the pedagogical burdens of this stressful season. Subject librarians will work with you to locate open or already licensed content. For more information, see the FSU Libraries article Supporting Students Through Open and Affordable Course Materials.
- Accessibility and Usability Overview. Review guidelines and tips for overall course site design, course multimedia, student communication, and text and file formatting.
- Bb Ally. One of the simplest ways to make your course content accessible is to use a program called Ally. It works within Canvas and automatically provides content in alternative formats. It corrects accessibility issues whenever possible and gives easy-to-follow instructions when it can’t.
- Video Captioning in Kaltura. Captioning ensures courses meet accessibility standards by providing an alternate means of receiving content. Videos uploaded into the Kaltura media platform are automatically machine captioned and can be easily edited using upgraded video captioning technology.
- Make Learning Inclusive with Universal Design Webinar. The following workshop was recorded during our Summer 2020 Remote Teaching Course Enhancement program. Learn about the principles and practice of universal design, how to make your Canvas site and digital course content accessible, and how tools like Bb Ally help make the process easier.
6. Stay present with your students.
During the unprecedented pressures of COVID-19, expect your students to struggle with feelings of isolation. They may feel like they’re learning in a vacuum, and this can lead to a loss of motivation and diminished success in the course. You play an important role in mitigating these concerns by staying actively engaged with your students and course content. Something as simple as uploading a picture of yourself and a brief bio that includes reasons you love teaching this course can increase what we refer to in online learning as “instructor presence.” See below for more ideas on how to increase your instructor presence and keep students from feeling alone during this season of remote learning.
- Announcements. Use announcements in Canvas to give your class regular updates on course content and overall feedback on how students are doing. Make announcements more engaging by leveraging the Kaltura Express Capture tool.
- Feedback via SpeedGrader. Give students individual feedback with SpeedGrader in Canvas. You can provide audio and video feedback as well as text markup like highlights, strikethroughs, and text boxes (much like using the track-changes function in Microsoft Word).
- Tips to Enrich Your Online Teaching. Make your remote teaching more effective and engaging with 10 tips for connecting what you do in the classroom with what you do online.
- Stay Present with Canvas Communication Tools Webinar. The following workshop was recorded during our Summer 2020 Remote Teaching Course Enhancement program. Learn how to use Canvas announcements, discussions, intro videos, and emails to communicate with students. In addition to Canvas's built-in tools, this webinar reviews additional tools like Flip and Padlet.
For more on instructor presence, check out the Creating Community in an Online Learning Setting Webinar by FSU's Vanessa Dennen, Instructional Systems & Learning Technologies Professor with the College of Education.
Remote teaching is not the same as creating and delivering an online class, but being proactive with the strategies above can go a long way toward developing a quality course. When you're ready to develop your first fully online course, we hope you’ll reach out to our instructional development faculty. In the meantime, we’re here to assist you during this stop-gap season of remote teaching. Contact us at ODLemail@example.com or find us on the web at odl.fsu.edu/quality-course-design.