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An Online Course in a Nutshell

An Online Course in a Nutshell

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Published by: api-3860347 on Oct 19, 2008
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Teaching online requires many of the same skills and techniques instructors use in traditional
classes, but there are some differences. In an online course, students access the course
materials over the Web at any time of day or night. Often much of the information students
acquire in the course comes from the class textbook (if one is assigned) and other readings,
along with what they get from library research, Internet resources, CD-ROMs, and other

Most importantly, students in an online course depend on conferencing software, email, and other
asynchronous modes of communication for the interaction they have with each other and with the
instructor. This interaction is the core of the course. In an online course, students cannot simply
raise their hand to ask a question as they would in a classroom. Email and conferencing software
more than make up for this, since having to type out a question forces more reflection before
posting it. In addition, thanks to the flexibility of the Web, students will never miss vital class
discussions. They can log on and access class materials and discussions at virtually any time of
day. Finally, the potential for collaborative work and small-group discussions among students who
may never meet face-to-face is what makes Web-based courses so exciting and so powerful an
educational format.

How does this all come together in practice? Here's a step by step example of what happens
accompanied by a figure to illustrate the concepts being discussed:
1. Students enroll in your online course(s) via your school's registration procedures.

2. Students receive their usernames and passwords allowing them access to the course materials. They also purchase the textbook (if required) and other materials from the college bookstore or other source.

3. Each week, for the duration of the course, the instructor assigns units and materials from
the course Web site, readings from the textbook and other print materials, writing
assignments, group projects, and other activities. Students work on their own time, going
over the online course material from any personal computer with Web access, whether
it's at school, at home, at work, or in the library. They submit completed assignments via

4. Students communicate electronically with each other and the instructor several times a
week. Of course, email, voicemail, fax, and telephone are also viable means of
communication, but the heart of an asynchronous Web-based course will take place in
the online discussion room. Instructors usemany strategies to promote communication

online which help ensure student participation and achieve maximum effectiveness in
online discussions.

5. At appropriate times the instructor tests student retention of the material. Many Web-
based courses have short online Self-Tests for each unit that students use to evaluate
their own progress. Also, many textbook companies provide accompanying web quizzes
as ancillary materials to the text. Usually an instructor will give mid-term and final exams
and/or assign projects. Depending on the school's examination policies, the instructor
may need to make suitable arrangements for issuing and proctoring these exams.

6. Students are assessed and graded on a combination of factors \u2013 test/quiz scores,
individual and group project grades, homework, participation in class discussions, etc.

Bloom's Taxonomy provides a useful structure in which to categorize test questions when
assessing student learning. The table below describes skills demonstrated for each level of
thinking according to Bloom as well as question cues that can be used to elicit student responses
within that level. The same content information can be assessed at different levels of cognition.
Here are some examples of test questions reflecting the six levels of learning according to Bloom.

Skills Demonstrated
observation and recall of information
knowledge of dates, events, places
knowledge of major ideas
mastery of subject matter
Question Cues:
list, define, tell, describe, identify, show, label, collect, examine,
tabulate, quote, name, who, when, where, etc.
understanding information
grasp meaning
translate knowledge into new context
interpret facts, compare, contrast
order, group, infer causes
predict consequences
Question Cues:
summarize, describe, interpret, contrast, predict, associate,
distinguish, estimate, differentiate, discuss, extend
use information
use methods, concepts, theories in new situations
solve problems using required skills or knowledge
Questions Cues:
apply, demonstrate, calculate, complete, illustrate, show, solve,
examine, modify, relate, change, classify, experiment, discover
seeing patterns
organization of parts
recognition of hidden meanings
identification of components
Question Cues:
analyze, separate, order, explain, connect, classify, arrange,
divide, compare, select, explain, infer
use old ideas to create new ones
generalize from given facts
relate knowledge from several areas
predict, draw conclusions
Question Cues:
combine, integrate, modify, rearrange, substitute, plan, create,
design, invent, compose, formulate, prepare, generalize, rewrite
compare and discriminate between ideas
assess value of theories, presentations
make choices based on reasoned argument
verify value of evidence
recognize subjectivity
Question Cues:

assess, decide, rank, grade, test, measure, recommend,
convince, select, judge, explain, discriminate, support, conclude,
compare, summarize

Course Organization

In a traditional face-to-face course, the instructor often has complete control over the organization
of his/her own course. The online instructor is central too, but not alone in setting up the
organization and management of the course. New administrative skills are necessary for the
online instructor to coordinate institutional, pedagogical, and technological demands.

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