Enrollment in online courses is growing and growing. In 2018, nearly seven million students enrolled in online courses. In 2020, 82% of K-12 students attended schools that offered some form of distance education. What makes a good, high-quality online course? We know there are criteria for evaluating good teaching practices, but the Internet is different. It requires the integration of technology, communication and learning which is different from the traditional classroom. Evaluating what makes an online course effective should be based on various criteria.
So how do you decide what an effectiveness model is? Is it the number of high scores there or the number of students who pass? Is it the course with the best post-course reviews? Is it the most attractive course or who has the most enrollment in the class? What about more technical software or links? We should take into account the best practices and then design accordingly based on the needs of the students and the institution. What makes a good online course must fit into the overarching evaluation goals of the school’s and school’s strategies.
Opinions differ on what makes a good and effective course. According to some, student-faculty contact, technology application, collaborative learning, diverse learning, active learning, expectations, time on task, and quick feedback should be included and reviewed in a quality online course. Another list is the appropriate speed for students to learn and work appropriately. Good courses provide a sense of community as students interact with others, ask questions, and form peer groups. They also include multimedia such as videos, interactive activities, and podcasts and have built-in opportunities for self-directed learning. Courses should be easy to navigate, have alternative avenues of exploration for students who may want to learn more and appeal to all learning styles and needs.
Is technology making a good path? It is often tempting to include many high-tech items in a course. However, good courses avoid having too much technology as it can be overwhelming and detract from the learning. Some say that including videos in your course makes them feel good. Videos in courses allow the instructor to create a sense of being in an online course and present information in small, usable and retainable portions. They also encourage the design of courses with accessibility in mind and the collection of data to measure and analyze opportunities for improvement.
Course design is a very important component that affects student performance and engagement online. Some studies show that accessibility, evaluation, and interaction are very important. How the teacher divided or organized the material in the course, interacted with students, and provided assessment and aligned objectives was rated highly. Courses that include additional readings, quizzes, video lectures, opportunities to reflect, think higher, and use many different ways to apply learning were high quality courses. Other reports list components for teachers as the most important method of assessment. Teachers must know their subjects well so that they can answer questions and provide more information if needed. Course design should take into account all learning styles.
Communication is also important. Expectations must be clear, contact information for technology support must be provided, and instructor and resource documents for how to use discussion forums, social media, chats, and email must be provided. The syllabus and other course documents should be easy to find and use with easy course navigation. However, another study listed course facilitation skills as the most important component of an effective participatory training course. These strategies aim to enhance teacher presence, communication, participation, and student learning. Faculty recommended the use of a variety of assessments, rubrics, course templates, the quality assurance review process, and data collection for analyses.
Timely response and feedback, availability, presence, and regular communication were some of the facilitation strategies used by award-winning trainers.
As you can see, the perspective of the school or organization greatly influences what makes an effective online course. If the goal is to measure learning, post surveys and assessments may be an appropriate measure. It could be as simple as student evaluations of teacher performance, reviewing pass/fail rates, or student completion/dropout rates for online courses. May be ease of use and the extent of positive feedback on the interface used. The institution can also have a quality standards rubric with pre-defined items that should be incorporated into an online course. The key is to align these standards with the school’s strategic planning and to what benefits students most. This plan must be implemented consistently on each existing and new course in a way to measure success on an annual basis. After a few years, reviews need to be made to ensure that these measures are still correct and that standards are being met. The bottom line is, you can choose any element you want, but using a consistent approach is ultimately what guarantees an effective online course and online tutorial.