Thoughts and Tools

From Design to Online

Another push, another season of growth ahead! I'm growing in my understanding of online learning environments and course design.  It is hard work.  But it is worth it.  This time I'm taking a course I've designed and implementing it online!


What am I learning at the moment?  Quite a bit.  It is amazing how much I've grown accustomed to the environment I can create in a physical classroom.  I know how to create trust.  I can gage interest and participation.  I can easily adjust in real time to the needs, interests, questions, and difficulties of the learners around me.  Often, those difficulties are ones that are hard to predict as we discuss the materials and interact with the concepts being presented.  Different backgrounds, aptitudes, and exposure lead us all to have a unique perspective when we're learning.  I am also able to gage pacing and overload levels in real time.  These are essential facets of a healthy learning environment.


But what if you were to attempt to create all of this online?  How could you do all those same things when the non-verbal communications are removed from your toolbox?  What if you only have pre-recorded, transcribed, or written materials to use?  This is a big challenge!  Things that students might just 'catch' from a leader's demeanor and tone must become more explicit and guided when online.  This becomes more and more important as the learning moves towards 100% online (like the classes I'm taking right now).  So, I'm growing in thinking through all the supports, suggestions, and guidelines that will create my 'space' online for my class.  


So, for my first attempt at building an online course, I'm planning to implement a blended course.  What does that mean?  Essentially, it means that the learning will take place both in a traditional classroom and in an online format. (For more detailed information, see Murphy, et al., 2014, e.g.).  Since I'm not teaching from a book or a set of standard lectures, there are some components of the class that will be best delivered 'live'.  Other significant learning events, like the discussions, can happen online over a longer period of time.  


I'm excited about adding new modes of learning for my class.  While I do have some discussions in my classrooms, I'm often frustrated by several factors: 1) students slower in forming verbal contributions are often left out; 2) at times, some valuable side-conversations have to be tabled; 3) often, even those students who are faster at sharing are not moving towards more consistent, deeper understanding.  I see there being many advantages, then, to creating online forums for discussing major topics.  It will include all students in the discussions and enable richer, more thoughtful, and wider discussions than could ever be had in a classroom limited by time and space.  Even a well-designed think-pair-share activity can't compete with the depth of a week-long online discussion!


Right now, I'm developing my class on schoology.  If you want to know more about the class or would like to peruse its content, you could read some more of my thoughts or contact me!  You could send me an e-mail or leave a comment for me.  



Murphy, Robert, Snow, Eric, Mislevy, Jessica, Gallagher, Larry, Krumm, Andrew, & Wei, Xin. (2014). Blended Learning Report.

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Curtis White, M.S., M.C.E.
High School Faculty
Math, Science, Bible & Computers
Abundant Life Christian School
A Madison Christian School