CTLT Dialogues

The Blog of the Center for Teaching & Learning with Technology

Quality Online Classes – by Catherine Kelley

Posted by ctlt on March 21, 2007

What does it mean to say that a course is of “high quality?” Most people agree that a course is of high quality if most of the students learn the required material. Others will point to student engagement and satisfaction, as we hope that our students do not see our courses as drudgery but as interesting and valuable experiences.

The same values are true of online or blended classes. Designing a high-quality class means designing to ensure that desired learning outcomes are achieved, and to fully engage and motivate students. The following design principles will help ensure that all blended and online classes are of the highest possible quality:

  • Transparency – the instructor’s expectations for all aspects of the course are clear and are easily accessible to the students.
  • Organization – The course structure is consistent and students can easily find required materials.
  • Alignment – Course materials and objectives are internally consistent. Readings and assessments are closely aligned to the learning objectives.
  • Universal Design – the course is designed to support all learners. High-quality design avoids creating barriers for any individuals.
  • Responsibility – the course is designed to encourage students to take control of their own learning, and to foster the value of lifelong learning
  • Co-presence – the course has been designed so that students do not feel alone in the online environment. The course has been designed to encourage regular student-student and student-faculty interaction.
  • Appropriate Technology Use – technology use is appropriate to the objectives of the class, and does not serve as a barrier to any students. Technologies are used because they add substantially to the class and help to foster student engagement, not just because they are “cool.”
  • Ease of Maintenance – the course is designed so that it will be easy to update due dates, page numbers (if a new edition of a textbook is used), and the like.

A good class design begins with clear statements about what you want to achieve in your class (learning objectives), coupled with ideas about how you will help your students achieve those objectives. Later, you may consider adding activities that make use of the full potential of the Internet and other technologies to foster student engagement and deeper learning.

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