Reviewing your Course Delivery
A faculty perspective written by Michele Clark, GWU
Reviewing your online course delivery is different from assessing student learning performance. In this instance, we want to know if the technical and practical aspects of our course, including the instructional design, use of media, assignments, group interactions, pacing, and technology were effective in creating an intellectually challenging environment as well as a vibrant community of learning.
You can consider the success of your course in all or some of the following ways:
- Looking at the whole: Analyzing your overall course design and delivery.
- Looking at the details: Examining individual lessons/learning modules.
- Looking to the students: Making sense out of student feedback.
Analyzing your on-line course is the final and necessary step in course delivery and can pinpoint weaknesses in structure and organization. Such a process can happen in a peer-review process or through a self administered assessment to help you address the following areas:
- Course design and layout: How your course is organized in Blackboard.
- Course delivery: How content and activities are communicated to students.
- Student engagement: How actively involved are students with the course materials and with one another.
(A template for evaluating your course design can be found in Analyzing Your Course Design)
Course Design and Layout
- Syllabus. Qualities of a good syllabus are similar in face-to-face and distance education courses in that they provide all of the information required for students to navigate their way through the course. Online course syllabi also account for policies and practices specifically related to distance education, and they might include policies related to discussion, etiquette, online group work, use of wikis, and expectations for student engagement.
- Course Menu. The Blackboard course menu is an important tool that helps to communicate in an organized and efficient manner with your students. The course menu can be modified to create new categories. It is also important to eliminate those sections you do not use. The menu is what directs students to a complete course calendar, assignment guidelines, electronic reserves, discussions, and other common course resources.
- Calendar. Include a specific course calendar listing all completion dates for all instructional units, assignments, group projects and tests/exams. Specify consistent times at which these elements are due.
- Assignments. Link all assignments to the GradeBook, and establish relevant rubrics for all your assignments. These rubrics facilitate your grading and, when published in advance provide guidance to students in completing their work in a timely manner.
- Technology. Links to appropriate help resources and polices regarding students’ role in technology trouble shooting will help to eliminate unnecessary questions and frustration (notably, the teacher is not the help desk!).
- Pacing. Balancing the combination of interactive learning experiences, readings, written work, lectures and feedback contribute to an overall sense of balance in an online course.
- Feedback on student work. How do you communicate with students on their written work? Group activities? Discussion posts? Other? Do you always provide feedback in the same way or do you use a variety of media (e.g., written comments, e-mails, announcements and podcasts)?
- Media. In distance education courses, there is as much of a challenge to keep instruction active as there is in a face-to-face class. Thoughtful construction of course-specific media activities engages students and keeps things interesting.
- Tech Support. What problems did the students encounter with the technical aspects of the course?
- Discussions. Discussions provide important opportunities for students to interact with one another; they are one way of encouraging a sense of learning community and cohesion.
- Student-to-Student Interaction. Group projects provide students with the opportunity to get to know each other and interact in smaller groups, reinforcing classroom learning and providing opportunities to test their knowledge and understanding.
- Other. Were there other ways in which students engaged with one another and with you?
- Middle States Guidelines for Evaluation of Distance Education (PDF)
- Measuring Success: Evaluation Strategies for Distance Education By Barbara Lockee, Mike Moore, John Burton
Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs)
- Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) are, typically, ungraded activities conducted in the classroom setting. Their purpose is to provide the instructor feedback on whether or not students understand course material so that adjustments can be made before the end of the term. Frequent use of CATs also can assure students that the instructor takes a genuine, active interest in their learning process throughout the course, before the summative assessment (e.g., final exam) is given at the end of the term.
The end of every semester brings a sense of accomplishment, fulfillment and occasionally relief. After the grades are posted, there is one more step, the review of student feedback. This can be challenging, affirming, frustrating or confusing. Invariably, some students will love everything about the course and what you have done; others in the same course will be dismissive and critical. How to turn these evaluations into a constructive basis for course improvement is a challenging process.