How to Plan a New Online Course, Part 2: Goals and Assessments

In part one of our guide, we showed you how to define the learning objectives for a new eLearning course or training, and how to develop a strong course outline that ensures your objectives will be met.

Now let’s explore the process of assessing your learners’ progress to make sure your course clearly and effectively delivers its intended lessons.

5. Defining Teaching and Learning Activities

This is where you specify all of the pedagogical tactics that the course will utilize.

Key points to consider:

  • What lectures, slides, visual aids, videos, and graphics will you include in order to support each of the learning objectives?
  • How will each learning component be delivered: Online? In-class? Hybrid sessions? Will they be synchronous or asynchronous?
  • What assignments, simulations, discussion boards, group projects, quizzes, tests, essays, etc. will you schedule in order to ensure your learners master and internalize the knowledge being delivered?
  • What supplemental course materials and aids will be made available (e.g., research notes, case studies, white papers, links to external forums and websites, etc.)?

Once you complete the process of assigning media to your lessons, you should have a much clearer idea about what your final course will look like and how your learners’ experience will flow from segment to segment.

6. Evaluating Assessment Strategies

You may know how and when you’ll assign class projects and test your learners, but how will those assessments correlate to a measurable proof of learning?

Key points to consider:

  • How will the course be graded?
  • Will the grades be subjective or objective?
  • How will these grades be allocated or weighted?

For example, you may decide that 50% of each student’s final grade will be derived from his or her performance on assignments, 30% from tests, and 20% from their active participation in class discussions. Within that framework, you’ll need to decide how many points each assignment is worth, whether tests will include both questions (objective) and essays (subjective), and how to assess the quality of each student’s participation. (Keep in mind that some students are more naturally engaged and talkative than others, so subjective measurements like this should take variances for a student’s personality into account.)

This stage of course development must also include appropriate communication strategies so learners are aware (before they enroll) of how their success will be measured. This may help students select a course that’s designed for their preferred methods of assessment, rather than realizing too late that they feel afloat in unfamiliar or uncomfortable assessment territory.

For more information, check out our tips for creating effective test questions and how to improve learner retention by providing contextual feedback on test answers.

7. Creating A Course Syllabus

By now you should have a fairly comprehensive draft outline of your course. If you’re building it in spreadsheet form, it may resemble something like this:

You can use this outline to develop a comprehensive syllabus.

Key points to include:

  • Course Overview
  • Prerequisites
  • Technology
  • Instructional Method (Lectures, Discussions, Group Sessions, Field Work, etc.)
  • Assignments
  • Quizzes and Exams
  • Grading
  • Calendar, Schedule, Deadlines, and/or Time Constraints

Whether your course is purely self-directed or a hybrid of online and ILT, the purpose of a syllabus is to clearly establish expectations and requirements without being overwhelming. In other words, when explaining the breadth and depth of your course’s components, “less is more.”

That said, properly phrasing the value proposition of your course is important if you need to sell the idea of taking and supporting the course to various learner groups, stakeholders, and constituents. Clarify what learners can expect to achieve as a result of completing your course in terms of the positive benefits to their interests: what will they learn, why does it matter, and what will it help them do better?

Managing the Course Creation Process

Since course development is a long-term process, each successive phase will be affected by how well a prior phase has been completed. To better manage your schedule — especially if multiple creators or stakeholders are involved — you should follow best practices for project management.

  • When possible, use a structured methodology, such as Agile
  • Organize teams strategically so parallel work streams can be assigned without creating bottlenecks
  • Leverage technology to help you manage and track deadlines, deliverables, and milestones
  • Frequent communication is critical for better project management (but try not to waste time in unnecessary or poorly-directed meetings)
  • Enlist help from consultants or other professionals who may be well versed in the process
  • Consider using a Learning Management System (LMS) to manage your project’s timeline

Good time management also includes allocating ample time to test various aspects of the course, and to run mock or pilot tests whenever possible. The more high-quality feedback you can get about your course before it launches, the better the experience will be for your actual learners.

Final Thoughts

As shown above, course design and development is an iterative process, NOT a single milestone unto itself. Like any long-term project, your eventual success will be a function of planning, organization, and meticulous execution.

Give yourself plenty of time before your course launch date. Depending on the complexity of the subject matter and the experience of your team, you should seek 6 to 8 months of development time prior to launch.

Unless you are a specialist yourself, consult Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) about any content to be included in the course. Their insights on what to include, how to phrase it, and what outcomes to measure will be invaluable.

When working in collaboration with others, make sure each person’s or team’s deliverables are clearly defined, their tasks are uniquely identified, and all milestone dates are assigned well in advance.

As professional instructional designers who have developed numerous courses, we at CourseArc will leave you with one final thought: always start by asking WHAT you wish to accomplish, WHY, and FOR WHOM. Once you have those answers, you’ll be able to efficiently figure out WHEN and HOW.

How Can CourseArc Help You with Course Development?

Watch our feature video and see all the ways CourseArc makes online course creation and collaborative development easier than ever before!

By | 2017-07-11T08:53:25+00:00 May 24th, 2017|CourseArc, Instructional Design, Online Learning|0 Comments

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