The following post is written by guest blogger Leslie Fetzer,  Occupational Course of Study Biology Teacher at North Carolina Virtual Public Schools and the 2012 iNACOL/SREB National Online Teacher of the Year.

I have always been of the mind that giving a textbook to students with the instruction to read is not teaching. This is even truer online. Ebooks have their place, but not as the foundation of a good online course. Online courses should allow students to see, hear, read, and experience content in multiple ways. New Web 2.0 tools are popping up at an exciting pace giving teachers an array of options for presenting content through different media. With so much available, it can sometimes be tempting to search for or buy in to what is already out there, but the truth of the matter is that sometimes what is out there may not be exactly right for the content or for the student. In fact, it can often take longer to search for and preview pre-existing content versus creating your own content personalized for individual students. Here are just a few tips for developing a good online course: 1. Start with a plan. Consistency is key. Make sure that your units/modules are set up in a predictable fashion. Also think about how many “clicks” are required before students will reach the desired content piece. It is easy to get in the mindset of making folders for our folders, but when thinking about ease of navigation, having more menu items may be the better route. 2. Build in assessments and content pieces that require students to progressively reach all levels of Revised Blooms’ Taxonomy. Purposefully place the assessments to provide teachers opportunities to make connections and give meaningful and directive feedback. 3. Make sure that every lesson contains an active teaching piece – a video, cartoon, animation, etc. Delivery of content should be much more engaging than words on a page. 4. Use all of the audio features available to you. BlackBoard’s audio mash-up tools allow text to be read in announcements, messages, grade center feedback. Not only will audio help students that may struggle with reading, but consistently hearing their teacher’s voice encouraging and directing their learning helps build the student-teacher relationship. All teachers know that building the student-teacher relationship helps bridge students to learning the content. 5. Using a great video clip linked from another site? Make sure that link opens in a new window so that students do not lose their place in the course. Provide any needed instructions for the video assignment before the link to open the video. Your students are likely not going to read ahead. If you say “click below to watch the video,” your students will click below before they read the instruction that says, “complete the attached assignment as you watch.” On a final note, while the above suggestions are just a few foundational examples for a good online course, the absolute key to a good online course is a good online teacher. Students need the personalized feedback and instruction that only a teacher can provide. Make sure that communication, no matter the vehicle (course messages, discussion boards, phone calls, texting, instant messaging), is an integral part of your course design.

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  • Maesru

    Amazing!!! All the information in this article has really great ideas for what we need to do. I agree that it is necessary to use different media to make the course more active. This article gives us great information I would recomend it to my co-workers and my students.

    • Jason

      Great ideas. Do you have examples on how you use Modules? I am getting ready to teach my first online course and I am new to blackboard learn. I would love to pick your brain if you have time. Jason jjaffe@cbsd.org