One of the most prevalent trends in higher education today is the increasing popularity of online classes. Today, about 30% of all higher education students take at least one class online, and demand for online courses exceeds demand for traditional courses across all institution types.

But online learning isn’t something to be taken for granted. When moving their classes online, instructors need to account for the absence of face-to-face interactions while integrating tools from an array of digital learning technologies. This presents a unique set of challenges, especially for classes that require a high level of interaction with the professor or those that are asynchronous in the online environment.

At this year’s Professional Colleges and Universities Summit, Steven Birmingham (IT Director at Central Penn College) discussed his experiences with transforming brick-and-mortar classes to online learning. Here are some of my favorite takeaways from Birmingham’s presentation:

  • Know who your stakeholders are, and involve them in the process.  Including a wide range of academic professionals in the process can ensure that the transition to online runs as smoothly as possible, without leaving instructors wondering how to do so on their own.  Birmingham recounted how IT professionals, professors, and even a textbook coordinator all played crucial roles in creating online classes at Central Penn.
  • Be ready to adapt to synchronous or asynchronous scenarios.  Though there is a common belief that students choose online classes because they can access learning on their own time, Birmingham found that some students preferred classes synchronously. Instructors should prepare their courses for either situation and adapt accordingly to maximize student involvement.
  • Think beyond discussion boards. Though they are still one of the most popular components of many online classes, narrated slide shows and captured lectures are growing in popularity. Recorded presentations allow students to watch lectures at their own pace and bring their thoughts and questions to the online discussion (a la the flipped classroom!).

Click here or watch the video below for more of Birmingham’s perspective on transferring traditional classes online, especially as it relates to student success. We would also love to read your comments below that discuss your experiences in creating online versions of brick-and-mortar classes!


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