Transforming a face-to-face course into a 100% online course for the first time can be a daunting experience. It’s a big change and in the beginning it may seem a nebulous task to take on. This summer, I partnered with professor Eric Wright, Ph.D., to redesign SOCI 3352: Sociology of Mental Illness to be delivered online. Naturally, he had many questions. How does a synchronous, live learning experience translate to an asynchronous online learning experience? What happens to my lectures?
Eric was not the first professor to express concern about losing the lecture. “Don’t worry”, I assured him, “you are not losing your course”. I asked him to tell me about his course and to describe his students. Through a series of casual conversations Eric and I embarked on a full course redesign. I wanted to know how his students experience his course. Eric knew his students well. He shared many valuable insights that shaped our design choices. For example, he noticed that several students had not taken SOCI 1101: Intro to Sociology and he had to spend a lot of time going over material from 1101 in his class. He suspected his upcoming students would be similar. We partnered with our data team to see exactly how many incoming students had not taken 1101 and how it affected students’ performance in the past. We knew we would have to consider this data in our design. We continued to reflect on his course…
- What do you think is working and what would do you think needs improvement and why?
- If you could do anything you wanted with your students what would it be? Why?
It was often in the “why” that we found our way to create the experiences he envisioned. For example, going online minimizes the role of the lecture as the central method of delivering information to students. A 60 minute long video of a lecture is not an engaging experience for online students. This constraint can be a challenge for professors who enjoy the lecture, take time to craft meaningful narratives and thrive off of the live interaction with their students. So, knowing the hour long lecture is not an option online, what do you do? Rethink the lecture. We asked more questions,
- What do your students need to know? Why?
- If you only had 6 minutes, what are the key concepts they need to know?
- How might you refine your narrative?
We met with the media team to brainstorm ideas about how to deliver the key concepts. They asked us questions:
- Is video a good idea? Why? On location or in the studio?
- What about an infographic? Or an existing video or film?
The media team designed a series of short videos and targeted infographics for Eric’s students who’ll need help with the basic concepts of 1101. Visual guides that could be reused throughout the course to make connections and elaborate on the concepts they need to learn. Working within the specific constraints of online learning, you will find, invites you to open up and make creative choices to rethink your class. Ask yourself,
- How might we elaborate on the information in a new or active way?
- How might your students interact with the course content in ways that allow them to solve real-world problems, answer questions, formulate their own questions, discuss, explain, collaborate, debate or reflect online?
Redesigning SOCI 3352 was an iterative process. It gave Eric the opportunity to reflect, rethink and hit refresh on his course, in real-time, as many times as he needed. If you would like to take some time to reflect, rethink and refresh your course, you have a team of designers at CETL ready to help.