Read the entire flip that course series on translating traditional courses for online delivery:
- Course Layout and Syllabus
- Communication Among Students
- Communication Between Students and Faculty
- Addressing Learning Styles
- Packaging Content
Sixth in a series on how to translate a face-to-face course into an online course.
Following from the last post on addressing learning styles in an online environment, faculty need to think about how to package the materials of their course to present to students, allowing those read, reflect, display, and do activities to take place.
Reading and Listening: Your presentation of concepts and background information, of anecdotes and history, of facts and issues–generally called a lecture, even if you don’t pontificate from behind a lecturn–can be offered in multiple formats. And not only is that a good idea in itself, but it can help you break up a long presentation into multiple shorter ones that are easier to digest. Here are some examples, but consider using more than one:
- PowerPoints with narration. Whether narrated directly into PowerPoint or using another software that imports your PPT slides, this is a good way to interest students. Your voice provides a point of contact that is absent from online text. Your inflection, clarifications, even your laughter and mistakes, help create a connection that adds to understanding. We are all familiar with how hard it is, for example, to use humor in writing, or to be sure that our readers are reading sentences as we wish. Here, you have a chance to use verbal cues to ensure understanding.
- Audio podcasts. Maybe you don’t need PPT slides, maybe you usually just lecture and don’t even write on the board. Then you might want to simply record a lecture and post it directly on Blackboard or on our iTunes U site as an mp3 file that students can download to their mp3 players.
- Print lectures. Many students appreciate reading a lecture at their own pace and marking it up as they read. If you lecture from notes, you could either offer those notes or expand them into a prose version. Even if you offer a multimedia lecture, you might want to provide a script to go along with it.
- Video podcast. If you have the equipment or the time to go where there is some recording equipment, a video lecture can be another way to make a connection, one that is more like being in the classroom. Students will see and hear you and take notes as usual.
- Discussion boards. If you usually break up lectures with question and answer periods, you can provide those experiences in a discussion forum. You will have to be clear about structuring when students should participate in them, by noting how many lectures or readings should be covered before participating, for example: “After reading ch. 1 and listening to the first lecture, begin your participation in the first discussion forum, called Ch. 1 Discussion. Be sure you know the guidelines for participating, found in the assignments list.”
Reflecting and Observing: Generally, your students get a chance to reflect between classes, and your online students who need to think before they speak will surely follow a schedule that suits them. But at some point, you need to see the results of reflection to know how the material is being processed or internalized. If you are used to seeing student writing only on two exams and one paper per term, you may want to consider several smaller writing opportunities where more frequent feedback is informative for both you and your students.
- Discussion boards. You get double duty from discussion forums as they appeal to both of the Rs in the R2D2 model. Students can observe the conversations between their peers and you, and can also put their own reflections into writing–remember the old, I don’t know what I think until I see what I’ve said? Such forums can be a significant part of the course grade or a minor part, and you can get out of it what is good for your subject.
- Reading/watching/listening reflections. Short reflective writing assignments, which can be as formal or informal as you like, give students a chance to think-out ideas away from the eyes of their peers, although you could decide to create small groups that would share reflections. This is slightly less immediate than a Discussion Board, where some students will respond as soon as they read a post. These writing reflection might encourage more self-editing and more polished ideas.
Consider such assignments as responses for all the media you assign–films, audio podcasts, performances, scholarly articles.
Display: “For visual learners, who prefer diagrams, flowcharts, timelines, pictures, films, and demonstrations.” Imagine how many times in the face-to-face classroom you ask students to look at something, whether it’s a website you bring up on the screen, your own diagram of an idea on the board, a handout of a photograph or drawing, or a library book you pass around. You know how such visual artifacts affect students’ understanding by illustrating new perspectives, and you need to replicate these moments online, as well. Incorporating the visual may be more regimented from your point of view, but remember that students can look again and again, whenever they need to look.
- Ask students to submit photos and other “graphic representations” that they find related to a topic. They can attach images to Discussion Board posts or submit them to you to post.
- Create a slide show or folder of images with clear connections to readings.
- Consider creating at least one video of yourself, either presenting content that includes showing a visual object or demonstrating a process.
- As suggested in the second post of this series, create a visual representation of your course in diagram, map, game board, story board, or whatever creative way you can imagine. There’s a terrific textbook on how to use critical theory in writing about literature, Texts and Contexts, 3rd. ed. (New York: Longman, 2001), that illustrates each theory with a drawn landscape, complete with roads and landscaping and buildings that represent critical concepts (stop by the office to see and example). I can’t tell you enough how these visual landscapes have helped me in my own understanding and articulation of complex theory.
Do Something! “For tactile/kinestheticlearners, who prefer learning by active doing, experiencing, hands-on, and often also group work.” Some task that requires a complete cycle of gathering, analyzing, producing, particularly in a group, will add not only a dimension of doing, but will go a long way in creating a communal experience. (I hear all the naysayers about group work, and you will have to set out your strict guidelines for group behavior.)
- Assign case-studies to groups on the main topics of the course. Ask for their input on how to present their findings to the class.
- Invite audio and video presentations. These could include narrated PowerPoints, interviews with relevant people in the field of study, personal performances.