Building Patterns and Anticipation: Online Course Development

This week, I spent time reflecting on the topics of building patterns and anticipation in designing my own online course. As I’ve learned over the past 6 weeks, there are many things that need to be taken into account when designing and developing an online course. As learned this week, patterns are very important to an effective course. Patterns provide students with consistencies week to week, and help to reduce anxiety in the course. Patterns are a part of the design of the course, and for many non-traditional online instructors, isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Effective design can support the ability to build engagement and collaboration within a course. 

I’ve been given an opportunity to teach a freshman level course for science and engineering students through the College of Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota. This is my second year teaching the course, and while it’s a face to face course, I’ve attempted to integrate a more hybrid approach to teaching the course. I will note, though, that I am now done teaching the course, as my role was only for the first seven weeks. We used Moodle as the CMS for the course, which is required. Going back to my CMS matrix, Moodle was one of the CMS’s that I analyzed, and there are some difficulties in applying color to the Moodle environment. As Cheri Spiegel notes in her Universal Design paper, color should be used in online course design to attract attention. I’m not sure if color would have made any difference with my students. I’d have to take a survey to see if there is any data that supports this one way or another. But, another key thing that Spiegel notes, is the need for consistency when designing an online course. I unfortunately did not do a great job of this in my f2f class. I would upload various assignments and material on Moodle, but it was very inconsistent from week to week. Most of the direction for the course came from higher-level administration in CSE, with many of those folks unable to understand the importance of how to effectively use Moodle in a f2f course. In the future, I will definitely change this, as I’ve learned the importance of building patterns in an online course. I’d like to also do a better job of building community within the course, both in the classroom, and online. 

Dianne Conrad’s paper, “Engagement, Excitement, Anxiety, and Fear: Learners’ Experiences of Starting an Online Course,” was a great paper and provided some much needed information to better design and develop an online course. Two things stuck out to me: 1) It’s important to provide students early access to your course and 2) students do not feel that instructors are a large part of the engagement for the course. Early access to the course makes complete sense to me, but it was harder for me to understand why students in online environment don’t really have much connection to the instructors. This paper did focus on adult learners, and so this does make more sense for an older student. But, those younger students, it doesn’t seem to be true. I also think Conrad’s ideas can easily be applied to f2f learning as well. 

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