Creating an Online Course

We are working with the Penn State World Campus on the creation of a course aimed at faculty and other PSU folks that are tasked with creating an online course.  We are currently in the design process of figuring out what the course should look like and determining what topics we should be covering.

What better way to help us flesh this out than to ask the community?  I received several responses from the Penn State Excellence in Teaching Ning community, members of the Schreyer’s Institute as well as past colleagues that were tasked with creating online courses.

After doing a very quick and dirty analysis, the comments fell into about 14 categories.  Some of the categories had a bit of an overlap (for instance, “design” might encompass things such as “content quality” and “scaling”).  Based on the analysis, four categories received 6 or more mentions (n = 16).

1. Technology – Not many surprises here.  Faculty asked about the appropriateness of asynchronous tools vs. synchronous tools in certain contexts, how to keep up with changing technologies and how to use technology for group work, assignments and meeting online.

One interesting theme that emerged was ‘what can I use vs. what should I use?’  Without having more context, I can only guess at what faculty were referring to but I have a general idea this question ties to policy and maybe even FERPA.  Sometimes faculty want to use certain technologies, but are afraid that they might be breaking rules or policies.

2. Time management – Many faculty asked about the time it takes to develop an online course.  In terms of teaching courses, on respondent says “it feels like a 24/7 endeavor”.  Both designing and teaching an online course are very large time commitments, especially when maintaining a high level of quality.

3. Collaboration – I was somewhat surprised at the frequency collaboration was mentioned.  Questions dealt with the types of personnel faculty would collaborate with, who sets the deadlines/timelines, what are instructional designers and why do I have to work with a team?

4. Design – This could have been number one or last on the list, depending on inclusive you want to get with the word ‘design’.  Some questions involved converting a face-to-face course to online while others mentioned how to migrate certain types of assignments meant for synchronous, face-to-face courses to an online course. 

Overall, I did not find many surprises during the small data analysis aside from the collaboration questions.  The collaboration is a tough one to answer, as most units have their own workflow and personnel that work with faculty on online course design and development. 

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