I just completed my first full experience in designing an online course. Having taken online courses before, this experience of actually constructing one far surpassed my previous appreciation for online courses. While I’ve always enjoyed the upfront information found in online classes–not having to necessarily wade through the speed and pacing of a lecture–actually formulating that information took a bit of finesse. I found isolating the important information but not overwhelming with excess information took a bit of thought. In this experience, I elected to focus on the topic of cybersecurity in part because I want to create a class for my district in the near future. I, myself, however was not overly familiar with the topic so had to do a decent amount of research to prepare even prior to designing the content I’d like my “students” to learn. Additionally, I had to keep in mind the ways that adults learn, blending the reading with video clips and mini-assessments. I elected to scaffold the learning, making the assessments become more complex as the student progressed through the module.
I had to include the use of discussions to create a social presences as a group but also to allow time for reflection. By asking students to discuss their personal experience with phishing in their work or school I am striving to have adults build common experiences and trust through sharing–thus developing a sense of shared experience or knowledge often developed in a traditional class.
That said, by far the hardest part of this experience was learning the platform. As a Digital Literacy & Computer Science Coordinator for my district, I consider myself to be pretty tech sauvy, however, Blackboard did not lend itself to a sense of user-friendliness. I appreciated the feedback of my peers both in my discussion thread but also through reading others because it helped me figure somethings out. I also missed where in my own online course the instructor posted video tutorials and elected to just go out to Youtube to figure out how to accomplish what I wanted. The useful part, and perhaps most rewarding experience in all of this was that I could easily rule Blackboard out as a potential LMS for my district. We use to have Moodle before I was in my present position but now we have been looking for options to use going forward & I can confidently say Blackboard would not be my first suggestion. If I found it challenging to do, I would expect others to become frustrated far faster than I did. Mostly where I strugged was figuring out how to add content in a logical fashion. In one “trial” I added parts in but then I couldn’t find them when I left that area. Another time I found a way to make a “lesson plan” and that seemed better but then I had all this other stuff from the first trial that I wasn’t sure was part of my lesson plan or something I should delete. It became complicated until I started deleting things I didn’t need. I also found it a challenge when you make a discussion post, that it won’t show up as the specific prompt until you say “Create thread”–I felt there should be a way that it lists the question below the word “discussion post”. Oh well. I certainly learned far more than I expected tinkering around and trying to get things to work. I’m hoping that come time for grading everything does show up as I see it on my side.
So, as I move toward the end of my first class on online development, I can say I definitely like the idea of designing these classes. I think it’s a process that isn’t going away in the near future and a good class makes a huge difference in comprehension of experience and content. Having attended a handful of them, I’ve picked up aspects I really enjoy like the checklist at the end of every module to keep myself (or my students) on task for what’s due. What I will say is I obviously need some additional training and poking around to make the platform not hinder my enthusiasm around teaching online.