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10 Steps for Online Course Design

Richard Powers
Dan Hasan

What's in this episode?

In today’s episode we got hold of another inspirED speaker from the conference back in May. Richard Powers, who presently works at two institutions in both Europe and the US, has already briefly shared with us on course design considerations, but in this conversation we had the chance to go deeper still. But even with a full hour at our disposal, more topics had to be postponed to a future discussion - something we’re anxious to return to soon! As for today, we began with a discussion about the shape of inclusivity in education, referencing the UDL framework which seems to provide much-needed space for this consideration. Afterwards, Richard shares his 10 steps for online course design - indispensable information for any educator navigating the new terrain of teaching and learning today. We also broached the subject of transitioning faculty from the physical classroom to the online environment - but the full discussion will have to wait until a future episode!

The Learning Experience Lab is made possible by FeedbackFruits.

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Welcome to the Learning Experience Lab, where we're investigating the best practices in education and interrogating the educators who are pushing innovation forwards. I'm your host, Dan Hasan, and today we had the opportunity to speak to someone with current experience in both the European and US educational systems. That guest of today is instructional designer and English professor, Richard Powers, who you may remember from our inspirED conference back in May, and who has plenty to say on online teaching and learning in all its facets. It was difficult to pick a topic for discussion with Richard as he suggested almost a dozen attractive ideas, including some about feedback which I had to tear myself away from, for this time. We settled for something more foundational and hopefully instructive for teachers and learners today - which is Richard's 10 steps for online course design. Schools, universities, but also companies and other institutions are still navigating this question of how to realise effective learning environments, activities, and outcomes in online settings, now about 1 and a half years after the pandemic forced that transition. As usual, I began by asking Richard about his background in education, and afterwards we get into the main topic as mentioned. I hope you'll also enjoy the conversation that follows.


[Richard] Sure. Thanks, Dan. And thanks so much for having me here today. And my teaching background, right, we probably need another hour just for that part of it, too. So you know, going through all of that I started teaching in 1988. And I worked about 10 years as a university professor, and in a classroom. And then online learning came around. We started out in those days with email classes before there was a platform. Can you imagine? Yeah, I had a Romantic poets literature course with Byron, Keats, Shelley. And I took all my lecture notes, and there was a listserv, called Pandora's box. Don't open that box. And the students registered, and they would get emails from me, I would send it to the listserv, and they would get these and they responded to each other. We did discussion questions, that hallway. And then about two years later, we had a proprietary LMS that developed. So then I got into online teaching pretty quickly with the course design back in the days of the pioneers, you could pretty much do it yourself. So you design the course, everything you were responsible for putting it on the LMS interacting with the students, and there wasn't a lot of research in those days. Then the school I worked for, University of Maryland, Global Campus, and 2002, decided to go from one semester to the other. We used to have 16 week courses. And we suddenly went to all eight week classes. And all hybrids, and all OER are open educational resources. So you can imagine all of that over one summer at a university to try to design and then move forward. Okay, a lot of those students were military students, so they needed the online format, because they were deployed, or they couldn't take classes in a normal situation. But that kind of decision, set them up as pioneers in 2002. So that's how I also got into it early. And we did classroom hybrids and live, you know, send homes that were sent out to ...

[Dan] And I was going to ask, sorry, I was gonna ask if something expired that change that sudden change in Maryland? Or was it the sheer fact that the demographic demanded that hybrid was available? Because of that distance?

[Richard] Yeah, you hit it right on the head. As you know, I work in Europe and also work in America. So I get to see how universities respond to these challenges in different ways. And you hit it exactly right. student enrolments, tuition and demand, run everything in American universities. And that's what was happening. The classroom, courses were sinking down in numbers, because students were busy, they had children, they were working adults, they couldn't take classes during the normal time. And the online structure developed this, this demand and this this, you know, importance for these types of students. So that's what happened. So the same thing didn't happen over in Europe, that my European universities because the schools don't have this drive and need for tuition for enrolment dollars. You know, social democracy is a little bit different from a capitalist democracy and how education moves. So it's only recently in the last year that my European universities, particularly in Stuttgart, have gone online because of the pandemic. So all of those things that I went through in 2002, from 98, to 2002, training faculty designing courses, all of that was like deja vu now, so fast forward 20 years, and I had to do them all over again at Stuttgart.

[Dan] In the US, you said, admission, enrolment and demand are driving, transformation or change in the US systems. Could you give a soundbite - I don't know if you have a rule of three - which applies to the European universities, which drives that change, which spurs them to be innovative?

[Richard] Well, it's so funny. It's just you know, when you say what the European ones, what really drives them to do it. It's coming from their leadership. There's no demand for more students coming in. So what happens is the students the longer the pandemic goes, the more complaints the students are saying, because they have so many untrained faculty the difference, you know, we get to talking about how you do faculty. In America, lots of faculty wanted to get into it, because they saw it as a marketable money opportunity. They could teach the online classes instead of just teaching the classes they could teach anywhere. In Europe, the professor's aren't looking for more work, more courses, more students, all that is done for him by the system that comes into that too. So the thing that's really driving that is when the students' voices, talk about how poor perhaps the quality is, and that reaches the leadership level who listens to them, and that starts to enforce some standards about how that's going to be. Now as the pandemic goes down and goes away. What we're seeing is that there's this great leadership interest in returning to the present environment. So there's not this, okay, now we need to build training courses. Now we need to build master courses. Now we need to remember that all the things that we saw in American universities aren't happening here, because the idea is still that Oh, next semester, we're going to be back to the way it was. And certainly all the innovations that teachers have done, it'll never be the same. It never will.

[Dan] What's your opinion on that? Is it you know, short sighted that we're trying here in Europe to just return to normal and get back to the way things were? Do you think we do need to invest more into a long term plan, which is more focused on the possibility for hybrid?

[Richard] Yeah, I think it's happening, whether the strong leadership who just wants presidents wants it or not. Simultaneously, what's going on throughout all of Europe is this diversity and inclusion from the EU that's coming down and all these initiatives with each winning Erasmus plus, inclusion is not just for people with disabilities or handicaps at all. It's really for everybody, we were talking about working adults, students with children, and aged, you know, person who wants to go back to school, have all of these special kinds of needs of diversity and training. So I think the universities are going to start seeing more blended learning and online courses, more alternatives coming up for it for the students, because that demand is coming up, because of the pressure and the hard work that the diversity offices are doing at all the universities, they've been, you know, talking about diversity, talking about inclusion for years and years, and it's never really stuck. Now, wow, with, you know, all the issues that are going on the world of global citizenship, kind of the horrors about human rights that people have seen, many even, you know, we talk about Black Lives Matters in the States, but we also at the recent soccer game, you know, Hungary makes a rule that people you know, a lot of times they would just kind of ignore wasn't a big deal and masculine you know, football players suddenly are wearing it on there brands to bring these issues to the forefront. So inclusivity is here to stay. And that's just going to help push leadership's mind into often offering alternative formats for courses so that everybody can study. Yeah,

[Dan] I'm glad you bring up that point. Because I've often thought of inclusivity in the general scheme of inclusivity, diversity and accessibility as well, various things over my age and development. But how you mentioned it is something that, yeah, tries to cater to the actual facts of that you do have these varied backgrounds, demographics. And I think more, more and more frequently, these days, we see that they're the one size fits all model. Not only doesn't work isn't effective, but we also have the ability to differentiate and to Yeah, I think we say take into account learner variability these days. So thanks.

[Richard] Once again, you hit it right on the head, you know, the recent inspired, you know, the feedback fruits conference, your keynote speaker did a wonderful presentation on universal design. And that's really where all this is coming from, you know, accessibility is one thing because people think, okay, if I can't see if I can't hear, I need accommodations for that universal design for learning. says, hey, there's not one learning style out there. Some people are audio learners, some people are visual learners, some people are haptic. And if you really creating inclusive design, that means different formats of materials. That means different ways of representation. That also means a different set of authentic assignments, that there's no longer this standard 90 minute test where everybody writes and spits back what their instructors have told them, you know, they just memorize it, so that two weeks later, it's gone. There's a different mode and a different attitude right now about a centon ascent assessment and how we measure these learning objectives. Probably because the students are so brilliant, you know, people talk all about the changes, the transformation, it's coming, because you have a mentality of students today, that they can do many things at once. They have great education, come to schools and have great teachers. And they can do lots of things. They have good backgrounds in math, they have good backgrounds in language, and they start to get to university and they're really interdisciplinary. Instead of trying to just be one direction and moving forward. And they're used to digital tools. They love doing projects with digital tools. Okay, I kind of privilege a little bit of privilege because I work with a lot of teachers and training future teachers. So they are super inspired by all the digital tools that are out there the edtech challenges that the pandemic has led. They had to go through it in classes with their professors, and they see good examples and bad examples of digital learning. And they're able to draw from those good and bad things to create their own digital literacy for then becoming teachers later. So I think the future in the next five years when these student teachers become teachers, amazing and their students are going to be so benefited and gifted.

[Dan] Very excited to see how that's gonna look. This transformation has really been capitalized the past couple of years, but the effects? I mean, yeah, time speeds up. I wanted to just go back to something you were saying about UDL. I've only seen this really happening and phrased like this in the US, will UDL reach Europe? And if so will it be under the same name? Are they comparable frameworks that already exist?

[Richard] It's wonderful that you say that because UDL is really a global type of thing. It comes out of the WCAG and the VPAT - things that come out of accessibility that move down for things like digital value for eye height, and German for accessibility, that are moving through those things and CAST, right, the Center for Applied Science. And technology is responsible for the framework of those three, you know, engagement, representation, and then action and expression are their three tenets. And when you see their framework for that, it's international in its scope, the EU has adopted it when it's coming forward with that, too. But the translations aren't up there. Right now I work on IACP as the international accessibility participants, and I'm a member of that organization, too. And we're working now on translations of the week CAG, and the cap for tests to certify all those previously had been in English. And now the global demand for this, they're having to form teams in Spain, and Korea and Japan all over the world. And they're making individual tests now in that language. And why this has come up. I mean, it's a long preamble to what you're asking. We couldn't find, for example, a German translation of universal design for that. So that's in the up and coming, we had to translate so many of those things for the test questions. So when we did that, we suddenly realized that wow, even CAST hasn't, you know, moved into the different languages going through out there. So right now, what we're seeing is, it comes out of the accessibility area, digital, you know, make your PDFs you know, readable with OCR, fix your Word documents, uses accessibility checker, do your PowerPoints, and slide decks, make sure you're using the accessibility deck. And then the whole concept of universal design comes in with people thinking, while we don't have one learner, it's not just about people who can't see or can't read. It's okay, what kind of learners out there. One thing in particular, is, think about your standard LMS. Even right now, I've designed content for 20 years. It's all text-based text-based text-based, how wonderful now when my LMS, I can push a button and it reads it to me. So I can have learners that don't, that learn better when something is read to them instead of having to pour through deserts of text on a particular page. So that's a universal design concept. Another is maybe a project at the end of your course, normally, students have to do a 10 to 12 page research paper, or they write an exam. And they've got like six and seven courses. So that means every term they're writing five to six research papers, which is I mean, you can write three or four, but five to six, why not turn that into Okay, writing a poem or a short story, or do something with a roleplay with an interview, or have a world an authentic project where you go out and do a survey of people, and then report back with some recommendations. All of those are wonderful types of assessing a program that break up the monotony of just one more research paper that chances are people won't even read.  

[Dan] You know, I said this to Lillian Nave, I think episode five of our podcast, we're not just heard about UDL for the first time from her. And at a certain point, she was describing to me the principles, and I said, you know, I've been doing UDL without even realizing it, I've been applying it and how I think about my very limited core science course design experience. But as you were just saying, right to poem, I did that for my end molecular biology course, in my bachelor's degree, the teacher said, you can do whatever you like for this final assessment, just get the content in there. And so I wrote a poem about the animal biology of the biology of the animal cell, sorry. And yeah, got some weird looks, but I enjoyed it. And yeah, sorry, just an example that came from my mind.

[Richard] It's a great example, because what it taps into Bloom's taxonomy. Now you've got this whole creativity and application of it. And I bet you remember that poem. Whereas if I asked you, what are the 10 molecular counterparts of the cell or something you couldn't remember that you had to spit it out for? I think you're right. Yeah, even though

[Dan] It wasn't a structured essay with this is what I'm going to talk about. And this will be a systemic analysis of these components and structures and functions. It was fun. I thought about how can I make this rhyme? How can I put rhythm and cadence in there? I didn't think about am I covering the essential anatomical features or what I'm talking about? I thought about other things. But at the end of the day, that fun and excitement and enjoyment, I think may have done more for my learning experience, and hopefully the others in the class you had to sit through that. Then Yeah, just kind of dry PowerPoint presentation or written essay.

[Richard] So you hit it, right? That's what universal design is all about. And unfortunately, most of the training when you go through universal design, they show the framework in very academic terms. And it's okay. They talk about the brain neurocognitive and how it works and the how and Why it's great. But really effective UDL training, then shows examples, and then asks the participants to take an old lesson or a handout, and now put a universal design spin to it, change it in some way, offer it in a different language, expand the assessment possibilities, offer it in more than one format, add some pictures to it, and all those things that you just said people are doing. But they don't know that that's what they're doing when they do the universal design, because the trainers for universal design are so interested in getting the academic theory that they forget. Okay, now, how does somebody do this? What is universal design and action, I call it, you know, how you have these, you know, okay, physical disabilities, you know, you need a ramp or an elevator, you're in a wheelchair, right? So if you look at those gramps and elevators as metaphors for universal design, it's like taking your lesson that you have right now, whatever it is, and giving it ramps and elevators for all the learners. And that kind of when I do trainings, like those that kind of opens up their ideas to people, and then they're, they're more accessible to putting in those things, like a lot of people fight the poems, you know, or I say, make a sculpture or do an artwork, like, Oh, no, I can't really do that. But then they take the universal design theory, they apply it and they go, Oh, that's what it's telling me. That's not an easier assignment. You know, it's exploring ways of application and creativity. That doesn't mean at the university level, get rid of all those research papers and know the job at university, you're trying to learn to be a scholar. But if in one semester, you already have four other research papers to do, you know, one authentic assignment, like that poem, is not going to detract from the learning. It's what you say makes it fun, you know, it energizes makes it something you know, real.

[Dan] And I'm going to pinch your phrasing as well, because I've often heard of this in terms of removing barriers, but that's negative phrasing. I like providing ramps, allowing, building an elevator allowing for that. Yeah, yeah. And while we're already on this topic, I think what we wanted to really, mostly cover today was your 10 steps for online course design. So if you'd like to launch into that, I'd like to hear your first step.

[Richard] Yeah, that was a great, you know, setup for that, because a lot of these concepts have these ideas of universal design in them too. And, you know, today, people are talking about online courses, as they never have before. And it also applies to corporations. And they're doing their training, because everybody had to do that really online. So whether you're educating or training, this idea of a hybrid or blended learning course, using either, you know, web, Tele-/ web conferencing, and some kind of platform to put them together has become more and more relevant. And there are some good basic design principles that go into that. And like anything else, you probably heard the seven Ps prior proper planning prevents, you know, pretty pat for performance. And it's really kind of true. A lot of people were talking about that essay. First you plan that essay, it's the same thing with an online course design. So when we talk about blended learning, or online classes, or you know, hybrid, there's kind of a difference between that modality, a blend or a hybrid has some kind of combination of everybody's there at the same time, synchronously there. And then asynchronous component note, the typical one from the old days, when I got into it in like the early 2000s. It was 5050. You know, you met with that class before you were meeting twice a week for maybe two hours. Now you're meeting once a week for two hours, and the rest is online. And when I online, it's not the sense that you're alive, but you're in an asynchronous platform, and people are working at their work. And they usually have a week to do their assignments. So people can go in and do them at their own time they learners are really in control of their own learning. So what I'm going to talk about now these 10 tips, you could use it for any modality and 8020, a sink sink or a 50/50. Or, you know, whatever is your particular context. And before you even start designing, they're probably like four or five things that you should already know, or what these tips presuppose. One is that you've already know the course length, whether it's going to be eight weeks or 12 weeks, or it's meant to be a year that people can take it you'll already kind of know that there is the course type that we just mentioned. Is it fully online, asynchronous? Is it blended learning? Will you meet with them over WebEx or Zoom 50%? You know, what's the breakout of that three times a semester? What's the breakout for the modality? The audience level, you should already kind of know, is it K through 12? kindergarten through 12th grade, fifth grade, sixth grade, who's your audience is that working adults are their training, what's your background for that part? And then you should probably also have maybe a tentative title and where it fits in some kind of curriculum. You know, if it's an English level one course then you know, it's in between that and English level two So there's a prerequisite with that. So being aware of where that course is going to come so that you don't stuff it with stuff that's going to be in another course. And the last one I'd recommend is having a checklist. Like the standards, there's a lot out there, they've been going on for about 20 years and getting better and better. Sonny Oscars’ rubric is open educational resources, it's a wonderful source with 50 standards that you can check with, again, online learning consortium has their scorecard suite, okay, you have to join the online learning consortium to be able to use that one. And Quality Matters is an organization and they have their rubric in the sixth edition. And that's another licensable thing. But what's nice about those rubrics and checklists, is they have different things: Does your course do this? Does your course and you can go. Yeah, it does. It does. So if you're just building a course, the very first time having a blueprint for the guidelines, you know, kind of like if you're building a house, and the inspector has at the end, these is what these are the standards that the house has to have before I can approve it. Well, there are these standards out there. So the big problem that there's

[Dan] Just sorry, just a question on that last one, then. So how ubiquitous are these standards to apply across the domains across the levels? Or are they more suited for higher education?

[Richard] Now they're everywhere, like QM has them for high school for primary schools everywhere, but they've all American for the most part, right? Like if you wanted to make given away a bad my big sales idea, probably here, but you want to make tons of money, you develop the European standards, and they're coming. I'm sure the EU European school net, and then the German all the locals will do that. But that's the quality management of teaching. Those things are super important. And they're right not to just take the American ones and swallow the bowl, but then look at the research and develop the new ones that are coming out there. Alright. Thanks. So if I had to come up with some terms, the first one is to choose my platform. Number one, what platform Are you going to use? Some of them you already know? Because your college might use an alias or Brightspace or Blackboard. It's out there already being used? If not, there's some free ones you can use. Moodle has a free version that certainly is Google classrooms school. ology used to be free, but it's not any longer. And you might just want to do it through a bunch of apps, right? If you're teaching maybe a grammar course or something that you just need a couple of apps to do it, you don't really need an expensive LMS. Right?

[Dan] You managed to do it through an email course.

[Richard] Right? I did it from email, and you know, exactly right. And during the pandemic, there were all kinds of people doing it through WhatsApp doing it through their telephones. And because people didn't have Chromebooks, you know, maybe their courses, you know, in villages, your people, teachers riding around on their bikes, and just dropping off things that come in there too. And there are certain criteria when you're choosing a platform that become important, you know, number one, what's important to me is accessibility. You know, does it have all the options that are important for people to use? Is it flexible? Right? Does it have data and privacy statements that come with it? You know, check out the V packs, the V Pat is an official term for the accessibility statement, they all have that but look at the data protection study, look at the things, how flexible is it for course design is very important. How easy is it for a new user to go into them, some of the platforms are more difficult and take a little bit of time to learn how to use them. whereas others are very intuitive. And you have a menu add like some of them. Here's the menu and you're adding an activity like a discussion or a quiz or file a format or a link, it's very easy to put this stuff together. So those would be if I just had quick seconds to talk about that accessibility, the data protection thing, usability and ease of use, trying to put that to it? Well, maybe one other thing too, is what it looks like to the students, you know, is it appealing? Is it something that you're going to want to enjoy going into and then use right for you for your learning, but it's a learning space. So that would be the first right? Choose your LMS. Then the second is to develop your course objectives, you know, and they should be measurable. And for a whole course there's these kinds of things like what can the student do? What can the learner do when the course is over? What and big broad strokes? Like, if it's a computer programming course, what will they be able to program? Right? If it's using a spreadsheet course? What should they be able to do when they finish it? If it's a literature course? What texts should they be able to discuss and then classify according to what's happening there too. So not using terms like, understand, read, become familiar with, right? Those are always those typical ones that are out there? But what is the student the learner actually going to do? What are they going to finish? when they finish the course? What can they be able to do?

[Dan] How are they going to demonstrate that they've acquired the skill or that knowledge? Perfect.

[Richard] And you know, a lot of this is backwards design. We talked about universal design, backwards design is starting with the course objectives because a lot of times, you know, in the old days, teachers would just design a course because they were brilliant professors and teachers. They knew what they wanted to teach. Here's the course and put it all together. They weren't really starting with the course objectives. They were ending. They'd put the whole course together, and then they would write the course objectives. But with this one, you're starting out. You just said it perfectly. You already kind of know how you're going to plan your course. Because if you say they have to do this, then you have to develop activities for showing that they have done those things. And then keeping those course objectives to maybe five or six broad ones, allows you to then break them up into the weekly ones. for specifics, they can get much broader that way too. So it's a common misconception that the course objectives are then each week done throughout the course. And you take those five course objectives, six course objectives, and then break them out for the weekly one. So that would be probably the second one. The third tip is to develop, you know, how you plan something, whether it doesn't matter if it's an essay, or if it's a, you know, a research project, or if it's some kind of business plan or a marketing communication plan, you put the major topics or themes with it, too. So that's the third tip is develop your core structure. Now, if it's a 12 week, write down 1-234-567-8912. And now what is the major theme for each one of those weeks going to be? Some courses are a little easier, because you're using a textbook, you know, the college has told you, you have to use this textbook, the textbook has 12 chapters. Wow, that's an easy kind of structure, if that's how you're going to go through your course, you know, one to two chapters a week. But if you're doing your own course, you have to think about what overall themes and am I going to have time and very important is with the first week in the last week, leave those alone, like the first week should just be introduction and building your online community. And the last week should be some kind of a farewell reflection, you know, an online party of some kind, something that brings the course together. So not stuffing week one. And then week, end of week with academic hard work. I mean, you want to start off with a good experience and icebreakers and build online community. And you want to end with a positive experience. And nobody just wants to get, you know, slammed with tests and presentations and everything during that last kind of week. So ultimately, in something like a 12 week course, you really have 10 weeks of academic work that a student can build on. And one mistake is that people jam all 12 weeks with stuff so that students are already behind in the first week. And if you think about it, the first week, lots can go wrong. Maybe the student hasn't had the textbook yet. Maybe they haven't been able to technology to figure all that out. So they start in week two, they've joined the course and they're already feeling kind of behind.

[Dan] So is there a way to sorry, is there a way to apply that to shorter courses, say a four or six week course to still be able to give that space at the start at the end? Do you just have less space? Or?

[Richard] No? Absolutely. I mean, certainly what would happen in a four week course is sometimes eight week classes get combined, because they have over the summer is that they just combined weeks one and two. So you have your introduction and you have so one suggestion is you might have a half hour orientation over WebEx or Zoom before the course starts. And then cover all that, like break the ice, you know, talk to people get them to ask questions, or send them the syllabus two weeks in advance so that they can say, hey, please, before we start in the fourth week, have this read or come to already doing these assignments. When the course opens, they can just pop in their discussions and they're already kind of moving ahead with that.

[Dan] You know, four weeks thinking about a course I did last year, finishing off my masters. And I had missed the first week. I've missed the introduction. Oh, I haven't finished yet. Hold on. Still, it's still going. But I'd missed the first week of lectures. I joined in at the start of the second week session. I was so lost not just for that week, but throughout the whole course I missed that. I missed that planning.

[Richard] See. And you know, it doesn't hurt really you can catch the professor's feel that week is valuable. If you think that you're going to be able to catch up whatever you thought you had to do during that first week, taking the time to do a check in with your learner's Hi, my name is here's my background, who are you? Any what kind of learners are you? You know, I have this little checklist that they do in the first week as an intro. I like to learn this way and you answer yes no to all these questions. And it's silly kind of just tells you the number of points and you're this type of learner. It's a gauge but they have fun and they begin to think oh, that's what kind of learner I am. And we haven't yet got into the academic stuff. I want us to be a good, you know, community of learners that they feel like, Oh, I want to learn about this. What's going to be in there that's happening there too. And, I also realize you're going to be students such as yourself, everybody happens one week, something the first week didn't get off to a great start and now they're trying to join in and catch up.

[Dan] This is my comment. Okay, I think education is becoming a lot more student focused. I have in my mind, this traditional kind of Victorian theme of education used to be a transmission of the expert right down to the student, and they would sit there with their papers, taking notes, doing practice questions, and maybe this is my British background, but be seen and not heard, and not do anything but answer a question when directly are asked. But now we're taught taking. We're talking about learner variability and we talking about different forms of expression, and getting to know the students building a community of learners and online. I, you know, I think we can both agree that's a fundamental thing, so that you're not just basically watching a YouTube video or, or answering some questions, but you're engaging in a collaborative learning experience.

[Richard] Yeah, and I love that part. Like, I'd like to put a hyphen with that like fun, the mental, right? It makes it you know, the fun to learning, there's interest, and what you said, it had its time, right? Think of the days when the professors really were the only ones and you say Victorian years, there was only ones with that with that knowledge, because they were the only ones with access to the libraries. And then students at Oxford, Cambridge, you know, Harvard, you had to the only place you could get that was in the library. And now it's all over the web. It's been this great universal democratization. So anybody could be a student, you don't have to, you know, go listen to a very astute and brilliant lecture. I mean, it's still helpful, you know, what I mean? Yeah, knowledge is not something that the university contains. And so it is liberalization of knowledge that we're seeing in the last 20 years, and, you know, powers never freely given. So the Oxford or Cambridge is the Harvard's the Yale's that, you know, it's hard for them to kind of get out of that way of like, we have the knowledge, we have the things going on and having all kinds of people saying, Well, no, that's not true. I can develop a theory here, or I'm a gifted person, I didn't even go to college. Now look at me, you know, I've been able to contribute on this kind of level, because I took a MOOC or I took an online course about what I needed to know. And then I moved forward. So I think what you said is right, today's learner knows, it's almost like, you know, you've got a big driving service, a big driving test coming up, it's learners becoming masters of their own car, they're not a passenger, they're driving, they said, Look, I want to learn this. So I'm going to take this class and then go do this instead of Okay, now, here, University College, shove your stuff at me, and then give me my degree.

[Dan] Is like the monopoly on knowledge owning knowledge ownership is, is becoming more differentiated, more shared, and I don't want to be too conspiratorial, but maybe that does threaten some existing structures of, as you say, of power sharing and power retention. But and also, maybe there's a bit of a lag between realizing that this shift is happening and actually applying transformations or innovations in pedagogical styles. But again, let's see where we are in one to 5, 10 years. And

[Richard] Yep, excellent points.

[Dan] All right, should we move on to your next point for online?

[Richard] Sure, I think we're stopping like this next number five, or number four is really develop unit and weekly course objectives. You know, from those major course objectives. Now that you have that core structure week to week, three, four, then put four or five weekly or module once for each one of those weeks that you have, that takes a little bit of time, right to think about, okay, what you're doing and why you're doing it, it should be also what you were saying before, think about what kind of activity that's going to be then associated with is it going to be a quiz or discussion, you begin to think of those things and make them measurable. And that will lead to this principle of alignment. The fifth one is, then the next thing after you do that, is then you can choose your instructional materials, or, you know, are you prescribed with suddenly a textbook that you have to use? Can you go out find open educational resources, there's lots of free content out there. You know, on the web, there are all kinds of websites and databases and things that you can use to search for these different things. So spending some time with figuring out what your course content is going to be, instead of writing it yourself, you know, perhaps going through OCR is great, but it takes time to figure out what's going to work for your course and to save those exorbitant textbook things. And that leads to six, which is to draft your syllabus. You might think a lot of people start off with drafting your syllabus, but I think you need these five points already. Before you start putting the syllabus together. The syllabus is vital, because that's the contract between the teacher and the student. So I think you'd have to put everything in that syllabus that the student would need about the course to make a decision about whether or not to take that course, also something that they can use later in interviews. If somebody says, Hey, you took this course and you can show the syllabus and they go, Wow, that's perfectly what we want you to kind of have in there too. So all kinds of great syllabus templates out there that kind of like Lievens life or resumes or CVS. If you have to write a syllabus, just google syllabus, and find a template that you like and then plug into the headings that are kind of all out there and pick and choose and put one that's, that's there for you all the information a student needs that we were talking about before accessibility statements, diversity statements, privacy and data protection, technical resource support, all of that should go either in the syllabus or the platform and the LMS. So it's a little bit of if you feel like your syllabus is getting too unwieldy and long, put it in the LMS and a special topic and there's something that can read that link to it. Sometimes that's a little bit more helpful, and that leads to seven. After you've developed these weekly course objectives and you have your instructional materials, you're really ready for this important part of aligning your learning activities each week. What are you going to do? Is there going to be a discussion? a quiz? Is it going to be a writing assignment of some kind, are you going to wait two weeks for some kinds of projects that are coming in. So you think about it, how it works, you've got this great, weekly course objective, then there has to be practices engagement with that before, there's a kind of a final assessment to see if you've mastered it. A big mistake lots of people do is that they introduce something and then there's a quiz. And that's it. So there was no time to drill and practice, even something like Quizlet or Padlet, doing things online for helping people work with it before they're assessed, and then moving it together. It's the same, like if somebody is trying to teach you how to dribble and basketball, right? You know, you're learning how to that. And they just showed you a video of it, and then said, Okay, go take it, go do it. You know, you have to practice that. So thinking about sports sometimes helps people, to teachers to think about Oh, yeah, of course, they have to practice it first before they can do it. So having these kinds of effective learning activities, and sometimes people put assessment and learning activity together. And the way I'm using the words is the learning activities, the practice the engagement with it, maybe practice quizzes, doing matching, filling out flashcards, and then the assessment is that usually for a grade, where you're tested on it, and if you haven't practiced it, how can you kind of test and a lot of us University, you know, the test is coming. So you do the practice exercises yourself, right, you write your notes, you, you may make recordings, or you you write down all the things that you're supposed to try to remember you're doing this, and it's so helpful in the course has those in there. So that you don't have to do that help them with the study guides and the quizzes when they're coming together. So and that leads to eight, I think you have to do seven before you can then develop your assessment and grading policy. How What are you going to get if it's just a certificate from the course? How many exercises? Do you have to pass? Or if it's a competency based learning type of thing? Or are there 100 points in the course you get five here 555 throughout the whole thing. So as variables coming in there. And then number nine, drafted discussion questions and scaffold any kinds of writing assignments, the big mistake, we were talking about that research paper that's always due at the end of the term, right? Why not at week three, first ideas. And then Week 6, you know, what's your outline for week nine? What's your bibliography, so you're helping a busy student, build that paper throughout the course. And not having it just to intern LMS is great, because you can put people in groups before they can share peer review as they're going through it. So the ones that feel like they're a little bit behind, they can catch up because they see what somebody else has done, and then kind of motivating and helping each other.

[Dan] And so I wanted to sorry to interrupt. I wanted to talk a little bit about the last one, but it links into this as well. So we talked about formative and summative assessment where. And the analogy I always liked for this is when the chef is in the kitchen, tasting the soup. That's the formative assessment going out to the table. That's the summative assessment. And I've usually seen, and I think this is probably standard practice, but I've usually seen that the summative assessment takes place at the end of the course. Not always though. And I mentioned where I'd missed the first week, we had a summative graded writing assignment where we would read that read the literature and write out our questions and our answers. Every weekend that would be graded. And I hated it. Not only because I've missed the first one, but because I didn't know what I was doing. I didn't exactly anything to be great in. But I wanted to ask you, Richard, are there cases? Can you think of examples where summative assessment throughout the course is actually benefiting the student where perhaps it gives them an idea. And sorry, but I think graded examples, get receiving grades back gives a lot of students this like very direct and quantitative way of assessing of self assessment. So is there a place for that throughout the course and not just at the end to receive grades on uncertain work?

[Richard] Certainly, I mean, a lot of it is like what do you have to do in a particular course, like let's say it's a computer programming courses course. And there are three things that you're really learning over that course, the typical three things that you're supposed to do to program. And typically, like you said, you'd wait, you get this exam, 90 minutes of questions of all three, will give three summative exams, break them up to those three areas that they were trying to cover. And week four have the first one you know, in week eight you have the second one. And then we had the third one. So instead of being tested on everything all at once you're getting the summative feedback, if summative chances to change, and to learn. And if you're really interested in the learner, they'll study three times that way instead of just waiting and trying to cram it all in from what they were trying to remember from the beginning. And you have to remember we're talking about one course most students do this with three or four at the same time. Their exam week, they've got four exams sometimes on the same day. So how fair are we to what they've really learned over the whole semester, you know, and then moving forward and I really like your analogy Because a lot of times, you know, people just brought their soup, and nobody's tasted it. Indeed. Okay, so number nine, I think we're at number 10. Is this the last one? Okay, check for accessibility. And I say that for the end, and universal design those two things that are too so what kinds of formats? Do you have HTML available? Are there PDFs? Are there PowerPoint? You know, available for everybody? Is there spoken text to go along with the written text? Are there videos have captions? slide decks? Did you check? You know, a lot of the software that we use, if you click on review up at the top, there's an accessibility checker. So start practicing and learning those basic tips with them too. And, and that was it right, those top 10? You know, tips. I mean, that's a lot. And I don't want it to seem as if it's oversimplified, because it depends, you know, sometimes with a course design team, you've got a subject matter expert, you've got a graphic designer, right, and then you've got a pedagogue working with it to instructional designer that puts the whole thing together. So some of these courses can take a year, or longer to build an E on the audience about what they're gonna do with them. whereas others, people have two or three weeks to put the course together, they say, here it is, you know, it's pandemic, next term, you're teaching that you haven't taught this yet. And you can still use these 10 tips to make us surface scratch becomes what's known as kind of a course that you build as you go. In other words, you have the planning, you haven't put all the quizzes and the discussion questions in yet. But every you know, week before it starts, you can prep it and get it ready. But if you haven't planned it, it's a disaster. It's, you know, it's like going to a grocery store, when you're super hungry without a list. You just fill your whole cart with all kinds of stuff, you get home, there's no food, there's no food. But if you had a map, right, if you knew I need this, this, this, you've gone in, and you're 10 minutes and got everything you need and gotten the heck out?

[Dan] Well, it's like you said it's 10 quick steps. It's not a comprehensive guide. But it's the structure that allows you to see the broad strokes and then as you say, week by week, perhaps the week before you can go in and flesh these things out. And it's useful to us as well. But we're going into the meta now. But FeedbackFruits is thinking about designing an online course about how to design an online course. So your talk on how to design an online course is definitely going to pull from these. I think that's wonderful. And there was also another topic that I think we wanted to tease at the end of this right. So I slipped my mind, but maybe got it in my notes, I do not have it in my notes. We wanted to just broach another subject for the listeners for next week, I think.

[Richard] Yeah, you know, maybe some of the listeners out there be interested in maybe you're a person that was listening to this, and you haven't yet made the move to online teaching, or you're being you know, kind of pushed in that kind of direction. So our last, you know, kind of a teaser, we will have another talk about this, or something that's super interesting, too, is just about how do you transition faculty from the classroom, teachers from the classroom to the, you know, in online environment, there kind of four overarching principles in there, one of the things that you have to master is time management. First, there's so much work that's going in there. So give you some good tips about that. And to also, what learning is lots of teachers understand pedagogy and what learning is, but until they really experienced in those selves, they don't understand what learning online is. And usually it's that jump from the student doing the learning that the teacher doesn't have it all inside, you know, his her or their head. But it's really that the student can find and kind of the course, teacher also have to find their online voice. First, there's a lot of shyness and an inferiority complex about posting for everybody to read if you're not a fast typist. So getting confident about that stuff to it usually takes about one to three semesters before, it's super enjoyable. And maybe one last little thing here about that is I trained probably about I don't know, 8000 faculty over my life since 1998. Doing at different colleges and universities over there, I usually kind of countered with three types. There are those people that are excited and want to move online because they see it as something for the future. And it's something they're good at and they're interested in. And then there are those that are kind of neutral, but at least they're open to it to experience and moving forward. And then the third group is the ones that are against it. And they're either being forced by their school to do it, or they feel they have to because they kind of lose a job. So what's nice is to be able to work with all kinds of those, like universal design and talk about their fears. So we usually do is have a pre orientation setup, and talk about those fears and get them people to say hey, here's what I'm thinking isn't thinking I'm saying Well, okay, open your mind. And we'll see how you'll feel in three weeks or five weeks, however long that courses and we'll talk more about it. And so my interest in those is not trying to convince them 100% that online is great, but to move them down somewhere on that range. You know, if I had people that really like it and people that don't like it, I'm not going to move this person all the way down over there, but I'm going to be able to move them a little bit. Oh, So where there may be accepted and kind of neutral, because without a good attitude, you won't do it. It's like anything else. If you're negative about something, there's no way that you're even going to try it and explain it. And so I think that's a lot of these faculty programs, what they don't do is prepare the teacher psychologically, for what they're about ready to do that they realize that this is not just pushing buttons. But this is a fundamental change in how they see themselves as in their role as a teacher in the learning process. And that can be super empowering, too.

[Dan] So I definitely want to extrapolate from your 8000 examples of faculty development and signaling this kind of training. And yeah, as you say, to get into the psychology of how this process works, and I definitely would have asked you next time, how can we convince these, these more traditional teachers who don't want to see it, but again, I'm gonna think about reframing that. And I love how you mentioned understanding their fears. Before we try and do any kind of argumentation and training. Let me show you the wonders of this. Let me understand where you are, right? Because I think I've used this example too many times now. But this wonderful, charismatic lecturer standing in front of the class and giving captivated auditorium this lecture. Well, I can understand from that perspective, that transitioning to online can be a huge hurdle. But let's really dig into what was so effective about that? And is there some kind of common ground, but I'm afraid we're gonna have to just tease this and talk about it another time. I think that's our time for today. So Richard, thank you so much for those insights. And I think we'll have a lot of follow ups to produce from this.

[Richard] That's great. Thank you very much, Dan, for having me.


Thanks to you, listener, for joining us for another experiment in the Learning Experience Lab. If you've got comments, queries or questions I would love to hear them! Thanks for your ideas so far about potential guests, how we can improve and expand, and your general support. I hope you are already seeing the fruits of your feedback! And remember, you can stay up to date with the podcast and everything else happening at FeedbackFruits by following us on social media, and you can email us at dan@feedbackfruits.com to get in touch directly. Until next time, take care and thanks for joining us in the Learning Experience Lab!

Further readings and references:

See Richard’s inspirED presentation on assessment in online contexts here

Richard Powers

Digital Instructional Designer for Accessible Courses

Richard is an experienced program coordinator/consultant with experience in e-learning, online, and onsite curriculum and course development for higher education. As well as his project coordination and instructional design work at the Professional School of Education Stuttgart-Ludwigsburg, he is an adjunct professor of English at the City Colleges of Chicago.

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Dan Hasan
Content Creator, FeedbackFruits