Students of today are very different from those in the past. Is education changing to keep up? Probably not fast enough. I was an online student 16 years ago, and sometimes I still see online content that is stuck back in 2003 when the most successful online learners were highly motivated and were able to read to learn. Back then, we read everything in the class, from e-textbooks and lectures to discussion board posts. The only interaction was typing discussion responses, writing papers, and sometimes creating a PowerPoint. How should our online content in 2019 differ from the past? Here are seven questions to ask yourself to help determine if your online content is well-designed..
1. Did you include interactions within the text and video content?
It is too easy to become distracted or to zone out when learning online. Short interactive learning objects within the text or between video clips can help the learner stay focused on the content and provide a self-check for understanding. The learning objects can be as simple as a drag and drop activity or typing a response to a question and then viewing a sample response for comparison. A learner can then use the answers as another way to reinforce the content, or the learner can re-watch the video or re-read the text. To keep the learner engaged, vary the format of these interactions. Use a tool like TubeChop to help grab short clips of YouTube videos. EdPuzzle will allow you to add your voice and questions within a video, and create clips, too.
2. Are preassessments integrated to help guide the learning process?
Whether you are teaching students face-to-face, in a blended environment, or fully online, preassessment is really important, and with technology, does not have to add to your grading workload. A few simple questions online can help guide the direction of your lesson. If you are fully online, you can use the LMS tools to sequence the content based on the students’ prior knowledge and responses to the preassessment. If you are face-to-face or blended, a quick preassessment can help you group your students for station rotation models or revise what you are going to teach. Use a tool like Flubaroo with Google Forms to easily create and grade your preassessments.
3. Do you provide a variety of post assessments?
When do you truly understand something the most? When you have to teach it to others! Learners become the teachers when tasked to create infographics, presentations, and vlogs using Web 2.0 tools that are easy to use and often free. Organizing and presenting content to teach others allows the student to develop a better and more lasting understanding of the material. Completing a project using one of these formats can take the place of a traditional test. Thinglink is the digital age poster board (and a lot more!). Easel.ly is an infographic design tool. Google Slides and Prezi are great presentation tools.
4. Is your content mobile-friendly?
A typical student checks his or her phone 50–75 times each day. Students often have their phones with them and like the convenience of learning anytime, anywhere. Their time learning on a device can be much more valuable if they don’t have to waste time trying to view content that wasn’t designed to view on any platform. Students without access to computers during class can use mobile devices as a check for understanding or as a practice tool. Mobile devices also can be used as a “clicker” instead of needing a classroom response system. Tools such as Poll Everywhere, Nearpod, and Pear Deck can be used for live interaction in class.
5. Do you design your content with accessibility in mind?
As educators, we are responsible for meeting the needs of all of our learners which can be challenging with online content. It doesn’t have to be more difficult, though! Include a transcript with your audio and video, label your images with alternate text, and use appropriate text sizing and color contrasts. Some learners have disabilities, and all learners have preferences for how they learn best. A varied presentation format is a great way to have successful learners! This site WCAG 2.1 At-A-Glance is a great reference for accessibility as well as our latest webinar, An Introduction to Accessibility.
6. Are there deadlines present throughout your course?
Many learners are interested in online courses because they are convenient. Learning can happen anytime and anywhere, but a course without deadlines loses urgency and allows the learner to put off their learning until it is too late to learn it well. Deadlines help students pace their learning and create the need to access the content more frequently.
7. Is your content LMS agnostic?
If you are designing a lot of content or content that you want to use more than once, it is really important to design it outside of an LMS. Better looking and more interactive content can be designed using a dedicated course authoring platform. Creating and maintaining your content outside of your LMS facilitates smooth transitions when upgrading your current LMS or migrating to another LMS that better suits your needs. Anyone who has been through an LMS migration can tell you there is always something that doesn’t transfer well. Avoid countless hours fixing coursework designed within a specific LMS by using a course authoring platform that creates LMS agnostic content.