5 Must-haves in setting up an online course

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There are five MUST-HAVE items to add in an online course which you are going to set-up be it on an LMS platform or Google Classroom or a blog platform e.g. WordPress / Blogger.

Must-Have #1 About the trainer

The moment when the learners entered the digital-virtual classroom, the info about the trainer should be clearly seen. I do not mean the info of the trainer should be smacked at the centre of the “wall”. It should be located at the side of the “wall”. Right or left column, it is fine. It should be always there and not easily pushed away from add-on content or hidden whereby it is difficult to locate by the learners.

What should be added in the section or column “about the trainer”? It is advisable not to add in history or lengthy achievements. It all depends on the purpose of the information. The following question “How does the information about the trainer helps the learners in add value to the navigation of the virtual classroom?” will decide what kind of information to add.

For me, if I am teaching an online course (blended or fully online), I will add in my photo, name, my contact details, and my consultation time (online and offline). If you have a larger space to add in more, that will described in the following Must-Have Item #2.

Must-Have #2 Prelude to the online course

Add a section which includes about the online course, expectation of the online course, how the online course flows via the stated topics, where to seek help in the virtual classroom, and the teacher / facilitator’s expectations towards the learners. It is suggested to add your own words for the description on the online course and expectations of the online course to create a sense of teacher’s personal touch. Learners react positively when there is a teacher’s touch in the online course. There are several ways to present the listed information. There are applications like Powtoon (online platform for creating video) , Pixtoon (online platform for creating comic) and Canva which information can be interpreted visually. If you are not shy, you can also video record yourself and upload the video for the learners to watch.

Must-Have #3 Course Image

When the learners enter the virtual classroom, it will be a plus factor to have a visual which represents the course.  The image below is one of the images I used for online course: Flipping Classroom to Active Learning. The background image was taken from Pexels, a website with tonnes of FREE stock photos (highly recommended). The overall image was created using PowerPoint.

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When the image was placed in the virtual classroom, it added excitement among the learners. The excited feeling though small, is sufficient to trigger the learners’ interest in the online course. Hence, it is crucial to choose the right image to perk the learners’ interest.

Must-Have #4 Reminders

It is about what they cannot forget to do or even what they need to do if face a problem in the online course. Usually, I would placed the reminders at one side of a column (Using HTML box for Moodle, or Text Widget for WordPress). For example, for the online course, there would be embedded YouTube videos for the learners to watch.

The following reminder was added:

There are videos from YouTube which are important to watch. If your working place bandwidth is not able to support view, please watch using your own telco bandwidth or your home internet line.

It is tedious to add that reminder under each YouTube video.

There were also reminders on submission of assignments. Putting up reminders like this assists the learners to remember things (if they almost forget).

Must-Have #5 The AH (Announcement + Helpline) Sections

These are compulsory sections for every online course. The learners will be able to locate where to retrieve announcements of the course and also asked for help. But the facilitator has to make sure, the queries needed to be answered as soon as possible. Do not leave it unanswered for more than a day! Else, it will lose its purpose.

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How about the readers? What other must-haves you have used to set-up an online course? Please do add on.

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7 ways to Pull-Glue learners to online forum

 

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Often a teacher would wonder how to

PULL-GLUE

and ENGAGE

learners to an online forum discussion.

The teacher would see the “hot” discussion going on the Facebook group discussion OR even multiples buzzes in a platform hosted forum network on movies / fashion, and wishes to replicate that same hot multiple buzzes on a course in the official LMS platform. We can replicate that.

(Note: The suggestions can be applied for courses which students find dry)

1. Post open-ended questions.

If you want a discussion to go on, start the ball with an open-ended question. This will encourage the students to post their opinion, and at the same time, other students may or may not agree to the posted opinion. Disagreement is healthy.

2. Be present in the online forum.

To ensure continuance of the discussion, your presence (the teacher presence) is SUPER crucial. Most students would feel aimless if there is no one to steer the discussion. In fact, the teacher’s presence also mean the teacher has to post feedback on the posting. You do not have to feedback every single post. Believe me, you will burn out at the end of the semester if the number of students in the classroom is more than 70. Some of the replies could mean the same though written differently. Hence, your feedback could be divided into summary of different categories of reply. Let’s look at the next suggestion which is closely related to item no.2.

3. Highlight amazing reply found in the online discussion forum during physical class session.

This suggestion is SUPER significant! If your course is a blended type, mentioned what you have found in the online forum during the physical class. Of course, you can post compliment in the post or LIKE the comment (if the LMS has the LIKE feature) or PIN the post in the online discussion forum. Let’s say the online forum does not have the PIN or LIKE feature, SHOUT IT OUT (not literally) in the classroom. Students  feel appreciated and acknowledged. Students also know you have thoroughly read their postings. From this stage on-wards, I like to announce that students would be actively posting in your online forum.

4. Be consistent on your presence (plus item no.3)

From this stage on-wards, you have been warned. You, as the teacher, needs to do more to keep the fire burning. The teacher needs to be consistent in the online presence and also having frequent shout-outs. Fire is easily put out if one does not feed fuel to it. Same case here. Can this part be avoided. This answer is unfortunately, no.

5. Plan how many forum discussions.

Now in line with item no.4, plan the number of forum discussions. Will it be a weekly forum discussion? Will it be according to the level of the topics? Will it be posted after every 3-4 topics? Plan the forum discussion to help the students to achieve the learning outcomes of the taught topics. The decision is the teachers. For me, I have it weekly. This was because I was teaching a course – Assessment in Education, which every topic, required an in-depth understanding and the students needed to transfer the acquired knowledge in real-life classroom problems. There were other courses, I did four discussion forums.

6. Make a student to choose one online discussion post from peers and comment.

I made the student to choose one post from any of their peers, and reply. The reason for this was to make sure the reading was in-depth. Sometimes, I would ask them to continue the reply from the previous post and to connect to their prepared answer. They can either support or reject to the previous post.

7. Click-bait the purpose of the online forum discussion

There are times when you have students that not all will reply. In my context, I have create a click-bait. When I meet my students for the first time, I am not imagining Utopian type of students where I would have students that are readily and excited to reply post in an online forum. I informed my students that the questions posted in the online forum assists them in the final examination (NO: These questions are not the same as the exam questions). I informed my students that the questions posted in the online forum will let me guide them to understand the topic. Oh ya, in the beginning, I did count how many have posted. I reminded them how many have posted and I wanted to see everyone post by the given deadline. This only happened for the first two online forums. The subsequent online forums went on without a hitch.

 

How about you? What other suggestions you used to encourage discussion in an online forum? Please do share your experience.

 

Using what students love to do

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What I observe from my learners?

My learners love to watch YouTube videos.

My learners love to watch Asian Drama Series (mostly Korean)

My learners love to selfie.

What I decided to do from their love-near obsession on those items?

I decided to use those items as learning materials / learning approaches in my classroom teaching.

What have I done so far?

I encouraged them to take photos of themselves in the classroom but the description has to be about what they learn in the classroom. Usually, they would take we-fie of their classmates after the end of the class. With the we-fie post, would be a “rant” of finally they finish what they have learn their class. Sometimes, they would take  objects to represent what they felt on what they learn in the classroom. No. There is no grade to this. I just mentioned that at least they were able to refer back if they want to check what they have learnt as a memorable moment. No, I do not censor their rant. It makes me, the teacher, to understand them better. That was the same sentence I told them during my first meeting with them.

Sometimes there would be a topic which requires the learner to translate their understanding. There was when their passion and knowledge for watching movies and TV drama series come in handy. For example, in my Pedagogy course-class, I would asked them to find any scene from what they have binge watched which reflected the best teaching method. I would asked them to describe why have they chosen that scene and would that best teaching method extracted be used in real-life classroom. By the way, there was no fix language on the drama series. It could be Korean, Japanese, Mandarin, Bahasa Malaysia, Hindi, Tamil as long the learners were able to translate for me and their friends.

As for YouTube videos, I would used their YouTube searching skills to post videos related to the taught topics. It would not stop at just posting YouTube videos in the online forum. The learners have to justify why the YouTube video was selected and they were also asked to review their friends’ chosen YouTube video. Well, at least now I know that if they were watching YouTube videos during my class, it would be related to what they were learning. You might ask this, won’t they be strayed to watching non-related YouTube videos. My answer would be: Yes, they might but they knew they needed to finish the task as given. It would not hurt to give the learners some “me time” to divert into watching other videos. In other words, this would become the trust established between the learners and the teacher (yours truly) and my trust and respect on them as responsible adults.

 

How about you? Have you used what your students’ habits and their trendy passion to your teaching? Please do share your experience.