Creating a quality online course is distinct from a face-to-face class. ODEE is here to support distance education and technology-enhanced learning at Ohio State. This includes providing support, resources, and training to help instructors become excellent online instructors. We have compiled resources and professional development recommendations for every phase of the process to help instructors feel confident teaching a course online. For new resources and updates, also check the ODEE Distance Education blog.
Becoming acquainted with online learning
To appreciate the unique opportunities and challenges of teaching and learning online, it's important to be familiar with how an online course looks and works. Once you feel comfortable with the typical structure and mechanisms of an online course, you can begin to experiment and innovate to find your personal approach.
ODEE resources: Best practices for online teaching
There is no one best approach to teaching online. Excellent online instructors marry the possiblities of technology-empowered learning with their own personalities, students' needs, and both traditional and innovative approaches in their subject area.
Based on our experience with online education, nearly all effective and engaging online courses have the following characteristics:
They are centered around active learning.
They promote connection, collaboration, and community.
They take advantage of multimedia and visual storytelling.
- They evaluate students through effective and educative assessment.
Follow the links for resources and examples in each area.
Outside resources: Introductions to online teaching
Effective Online Teaching, Tina Stavredes (print book and ebook available from University Libraries)
Used as a textbook in many universities' trainings for online instructors, this book provides an excellent overview of both theory and practice of teaching online and would be an excellent single resource for preparing to teach online.
Seven Principles of Effective Online Teaching: A Practical Lens for Evaluating Online Courses, Charles Graham et al. (reprinted online)
This 2001 article provides a short, pithy overview of essential online teaching practices.
Professional development: Certificates from other organizations
If you are interested in receiving an online teaching certificate, many organizations and institutions offer worthwhile training programs. For these and other opportunities, you may be able to apply for the ODEE eLearning Professional Development Grant program.
Designing your online course
The hub of your course learning space is the Carmen learning management system. It's important to design and build a syllabus-based course structure before students start the term. Most leading distance education research organizations, including the Quality Matters organization, advocate a backward design process as you prepare your online course. This involves:
- Articulating your intended learning outcomes
- Determining assessments to measure the outcomes
- Building a week-by-week learning plan with supporting activities
When developing your courses with our instructional designers, we will work with you to lay out this design plan and then use it to build the online course in Carmen. The following resources may be helpful in guiding you through the process.
ODEE resources: Course development process and templates
These documents help us develop courses for fully distance programs at Ohio State. Even if you're not working with our instructional designers in one of those programs, you may use these as resources to develop your online courses.
Course Development Timeline
This is our 14-week (semester-long) schedule for designing, developing, and constructing a course. The milestones in the process would apply to any online course project.
Course Blueprint template
This course design template allows you to plan your online course using a backward design process. The weekly learning plan section of the document is designed to facilitate straightforward creation of the Carmen course.
Distance Education Syllabus template
This accessible syllabus template, which matches our distance education Carmen course template, has specific information and policies for online courses, including participation and discussion guidelines.
Outside resources: Wiggins and McTighe's Understanding by Design
Originally written for secondary teachers to help them design more meaningful teaching and learning, Understanding by Design has been adopted by many faculty members and university teaching centers. Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe provide a process, with templates, for backward designing a course.
- Short overview from the Understanding by Design website
- Understanding by Design (print book available from University Libraries)
Instructors can use these templates, adapted from the book, even if they are not formally working with ODEE.
Understanding by Design Template – Explained
This template for backward course design includes detailed descriptions of each part of the template, what information gets filled in, and how to work through three steps in the backward design process.
Understanding by Design Template – Blank
This template is the same backward course design template as above. It has been left blank for faculty to download and use as they design their own courses.
Outside resources: Fink's Integrated Course Design
L. Dee Fink's integrated course design model, from Creating Significant Learning Experiences, is another seminal approach for designing meaningful college courses. The book (now in a new revised edition that addresses online learning) lays out a self-directed process for creating meaningful learning objectives, assessments/feedback, and activities.
Professional development: UCAT course design institute
Aligning your course with Quality Matters
Quality Matters (QM) is an inter-institutional organization that sets baseline research-based standards to ensure quality design for online and hybrid courses. The QM Rubric, which lists criteria in eight areas of online course design, may be an excellent resource to guide your course planning.
Online courses can be submitted for review based on the rubric, and courses that meet all the essential standards will be awarded a seal of quality. ODEE is working with other Ohio State stakeholders to provide training opportunities for faculty to become peer reviewers.
ODEE resources: Quality Matters
Professional development: Quality Matters reviewer training
For the following three courses, available online, you may be able to receive reimbursement from the Quality Matters grants program.
Setting up an effective, accessible course in Carmen
Because students interact with your class through a web browser, it's important your Carmen course site is navigable and accessible. You don't need to be a web developer to teach online, but you do need to feel comfortable with the tools you'll use to set up and manage your course(s). ODEE offers resources and hands-on training sessions on each of these tools.
ODEE resources: Distance Education shell for Carmen
The Distance Education team has created a Carmen course shell that aligns with Quality Matters and helps us create appealing, visual courses. The shell includes the content structure, homepage, and syllabus and content templates.
See the Carmen Course Style Guide for specific instructions about customizing and laying out courses in the shell.
Ohio State resource: Web and content accessibility
The Ohio State Accessible Classroom Technologies site, a project of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) ADA Coordinator's Office, Student Life Disability Services , and the Web Accessibility Center, offers guidelines for making content accessible in Carmen, PDFs, and Microsoft Word and PowerPoint files, as well as adding captions to multimedia content.
Professional development: Carmen training sessions
To make sure you're able to focus your energy on teaching and not on technology during your first semesters online, we recommend taking each of the available Carmen training sessions. If you feel comfortable using Carmen with your face-to-face course, you may not need to attend one or more of the workshops.
- Carmen: Getting Started: This hands-on workshop will provide you with the skills needed to set up a basic course in Carmen, Ohio State's course management system. The session is intended for instructors who are new to Carmen.
- Carmen: Activities: This more-advanced session goes into techniques and strategies for using discussions, dropboxes, and groups to conduct effective online activities and assignments.
- Carmen: Grades: This workshop covers how to set up the Gradebook in Carmen and enter and manage grades.
- Carmen: Strategies for Grading Online: This session discusses using rubrics in Carmen, providing online feedback, and using the plagiarism checker.
- Using CarmenConnect: If you intend to hold live sessions or office hours in your online course, you can learn the basic skills in this workshop to set up and manage meeting rooms in CarmenConnect.
Read more, and register, on the ODEE Workshops page.
ODEE resources: Carmen help
ODEE resources: Digital Union facilities and Lynda.com
You can use the software in one of the Digital Union locations around campus to edit audio, video, and other media for your courses.
The Digital Union also offers access to Lynda.com, where you can find extensive video tutorials on technology tools and software, including web design and multimedia creation.
Managing your course once it begins
Whether you're a new or an experienced online instructor, it can be helpful to have a calendar or checklist of the pre-term and ongoing administrative tasks for the course.
ODEE resources: Checklist for your first semester teaching online
The following is an overview of some of the key steps for a typical online course.
Before class begins
Review your course in Carmen: Check that your content is all in the course and properly set up. Also be sure to verify links and due dates.
Week 1 introduction: Record a Week 1 video or audio introduction, and write a Week 1 message in the question-and-answer discussion area.
Welcome announcement: Post a welcome announcement as a news item on the course home page.
The first days of class
About me: Post your “About me” message on Day 1; follow up at the end of the “About me” thread after most or all students have responded.
Tracking students: Contact any student who has not logged in to your course in Carmen; follow up with your academic unit, if necessary. Also reach out to any students who are not yet participating actively.
Throughout the course
Weekly video or audio introduction: Record a 1-minute introduction for each week at the end of the preceding week, and post a text version in the question-and-answer discussion area. Use student progress, discussions, and so on as a basis for your message.
Updating weekly overviews and announcements: If you make any changes to activities or assignment due dates, be sure to post an announcement. Let students know of any changes you make to the Carmen course while the semester is in progress.
Guiding discussions: Check the weekly Questions thread often. Monitor the discussion area and participate as needed to guide discussions. Wrap up discussions as they reach a good stopping point for reflection.
Communicating with students: Respond to student e-mails within 1 business day. Establish office hours when students can reach you by phone, CarmenConnect, or quick email.
Grades and feedback: Try to return feedback and grades on student assignments within 1 week of submission.
When the course ends
End-of-course survey: Remind students to complete the SEI and the distance-education survey, if one is included for your course.
Calculate final grades. Use Carmen Gradebook to calculate final grades and submit them. See the ODEE Resource Center for more information.
Review and reflect on your course: Look back through your course in Carmen and make note of changes you made or revisions you intend to make.
Outside resources: Managing your work load
Managing Online Instructor Workload, Simone C O Conceição; Rosemary M Lehman (print book and ebook available from University Libraries)
This short book talks about how online courses involve more work in some areas and less in others compared to a face-to-face course. The authors offer suggestions, some related to course design and others about online time-management strategies.