Have you ever thought about all the different steps that need to be taken when setting up an online course? For many, it seems like it is just to take the material from the face-to-face course and digitalize it, and then we have an online course. However, just as we need to plan the face-to-face course we need to do the same with an online course. There are differences that are essential and, therefore, need more work and preparation. Like the technology that we can use in an online course.

Something I claimed for a long time discussing online courses and technology, is that technology is tools that you can use. You do not have to use everything that is out there, you should use the technology that will help your teaching and enhance the learning for the students. Boettcher and Conrad (2010) also mention this when they say “…keep it simple. Focus on the essential tools, and build your first course around those tools.” To be able to focus on the essential tool, or to choose a tool that will help you and your students, you have to have knowledge of what is out there. I have loved the courses in this Master Program because now and then, and sometimes a lot, there are suggestions of different tools I have never heard of. I look into those suggestions, what they are for and what I could do with them, and then I add them to my toolbox (I try to gather the names of the tools) to bring out when I need them. I wish, however, that I had more time to try them out, play with them and be skillful in using them. Often that will happen during the use of the tool in a course.

Knowing what tools I will use will help me prepare and organize the online course, but then we also have the students that might or might not take an online course for the first time. What can they expect from me as the instructor and the course, but also what is expected from them? “Clear and unambiguous guidelines about what is expected of learners and what they should expect from an instructor make a significant contribution to ensuring understanding and satisfaction in an online course” (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010). The clearer we get the easier it is for the students to focus on the correct things, and learn more. It will also be easier for us teachers, since we avoid discussions about what is happening in the course and can focus on the teaching.

Besides making expectations clear and having knowledge of technology, the instructor needs to consider on how to create a presence in the online course. Presence is about “being there” in the online classroom as human beings.  Three different kinds of presence are needed and need to be planned. Social is about getting to know each other, and to build trust. It is only then “content discussions can be open and substantive” (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010). Creating social presence can be done with an icebreaker activity at the beginning of the course.  Cognitive presence is about students’ willingness to take part in discussion and other activities, and be able to construct and confirm meaning.  To create cognitive presence is not easy since students might come with different reasons for taking the course, but what an instructor can do is to find out “what students know and how they know it” (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010). The way the course is organized can also be a help. Teaching presence consists of the material that is prepared before the course starts, but also the way the instructor ask and answers questions in forums, giving feedback on assignments and communicating what is going on in the course. This is also something that the instructor should plan and prepare before the course starts (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010).

The more preparation and planning we do as an instructor, the bigger the chance that the students will achieve a good experience of an online course.  It will also simplify the work during the course for the instructor since he/she will know what will happen when and can, therefore, focus on the students.

 

Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

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