We are facing unprecedented challenges with the spread of the COVID-19 virus. As entire departments and schools migrate to virtual classes, there is an increasing demand for online learning and working. At CourseArc, we excel in developing tools so that online learning is a seamless extension of face-to-face programming. Many of our clients are champions of high-quality online learning and are already creating and deploying content for their learners.
As higher education institutions and school systems across the nation (and globe), close their physical classrooms and move learning online, the hardest step is determining how to do this effectively.
Rapid deployment of programs is possible with key planning and design steps. Here are some tips from the CourseArc team and our successful clients.
Planning for Your Online Program
One of the most important pieces of developing and deploying online learning and working is understanding the value for your learner and providing content they need whenever and however they need it.
- For K-12 and Higher Ed organizations, students need programs of consistent quality regardless of the means of access. Content should be available via mobile devices of all kinds, and wherever students are ready to learn. Content should also be accessible per Section 508 regulations, which ensures there are no technology or interface design barriers for those with disabilities.
- For corporations, non-profits, and government agencies, learners want well-defined career path programs that allow them to continue to gain skills, learn and grow. Employee retention is at risk without such programs. Online programs provide consistent onboarding, training, professional development processes. They also offer valuable access to training and professional development opportunities ubiquitously, quickly, and on any device.
Metrics for Outcomes Based on Audience
Another important factor is identifying clear learning goals and clear outcomes to show those goals have been met.
- For traditional education organizations:
- Utilize objective assessments, including a variety of question types based on pedagogical best practices for the students.
- For professional development organizations:
- Have clear objectives – some training is mandatory and/or compliance-based, while other courses are for knowledge, skills, or attitudes (KSAs) that will be applied in day-to-day work.
- Develop assessments, once objectives are defined, that measure learning specific to how the knowledge, skills, or attitudes (KSAs) are applied.
Engagement Enables Learning
Design activities that engage the participant and lead to learning. This includes ensuring the program is interactive and offers opportunities for ongoing feedback. Delivering various forms of feedback in multiple places, especially in asynchronous courses, gives real-time assessments for the learner.
Skills Analysis Results in Optimized Learning
Identify prerequisite skills and determine what each learner knows prior to the course. Assess minimum prior knowledge to ensure the learner is able to succeed. When more than the minimum prerequisite knowledge exists for a learner, make adjustments to meet them where they are with flexible, personalized content.
Good Design is Key
Design best practices let the learner focus on the content, not distractions in the learning tool. Of the most important best practices:
- Use explicit directions
- Ensure a consistent design and approach
- Develop a clean and simple user interface (UI)
- Offer multiple modes of learning (i.e., audio, visual, text.)
- Build-in many opportunities for interactivity, feedback, and communication
Read more about how to improve the design of your online course from organizations ahead of the curve.
Many educators and organizations across the country are rapidly deploying programs successfully.
One CourseArc client, Michigan Virtual, designed free resources, including a new Facebook group to help schools provide students with learning continuity, including content from over 70 of their student courses. Michigan Virtual is also offering several high-quality virtual courses for free to all educators.
“Our team at Michigan Virtual has made the mandatory school closure emergency our number one priority. We understand the need for public health officials to close schools and slow the spread of the coronavirus. We also realize that most schools did not see this crisis coming and had very little time to prepare for remote learning days. As the only statewide non-profit online education provider in Michigan, we are taking measures to work around the clock to create support structures, share planning tools, and offer free digital content for students and practical online professional development programming for educators. We are optimistic teachers in Michigan will find creative ways to connect with their students and support learning activities during this extraordinary time. We also know that this crisis raises questions about how schools will prepare in the event that schools close for extended periods of time in the future for any reason, and are working on a framework to help them think through those strategies.”
Jamey Fitzpatrick, President and CEO – Michigan Virtual
In just a matter of hours, educators at Baltimore County Public Schools in Maryland were able to develop an entire website providing instructional resources for students. It’s not just available for Baltimore County Public School students, it’s available to ALL students.
“I’ve had some awesome days as an educator, but today stands high above them all. We’ve been preparing for the unthinkable for about 10 days, but we did not think we would need to implement in a matter of hours. Today 1,000s of teachers across the system individually ensured their students had learning materials (either print or digital) available for access. Today my team answered every email, every phone call, supported each other and ensured we were delivering the best possible service till the last minute. I’m proud to be a part of BCPS! Well done.”
Ryan Imbriale, Executive Director, Innovative Learning, Baltimore County Public Schools System
We love seeing the collaboration between educators across the country. Continuing education for our students, especially in this time of uncertainty, IS POSSIBLE. If you have suggestions or resources, such as tips for online discussion forums, supporting instructors new to online learning, or best practices using synchronous meeting tools for other schools that you are willing to share, please reach out. We will curate the resources and provide access to our clients and post them on our website for public consumption.
We are compiling a list of resources to assist teachers and organizations with the rapid development of online programs. Check back to our blog and social media feeds for more helpful resources in the coming days and weeks.
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