Teaching Intricate Content Online: It Can Be Done and Done Well

From Section:
ICT & Teaching
Feb. 28, 2009

Source: Action in Teacher Education, v. 30 no. 4  (Winter 2009) p. 28-44.

(Reviewd by ITEC Portal team)

Despite a plethora of online course offerings over the past decade, the authors continue to see resistance to this platform for course delivery, particularly with content that is ostensibly too sensitive or difficult to deliver in this format.
This article describes an approach to online course planning and design. Special attention was paid to creating rich and meaningful student-to-content interactions, as well as student-to-instructor interactions. The instructors approached the design of this course to address personalization (student-to-instructor interaction), meaningful engagement (student-to-content interaction), and ongoing checks of student understanding (student-to-instructor and student-to-content interactions).
After using this approach to develop and then teach a course focused on instructional strategies for students with significant support needs, the authors captured students' perspectives regarding the efficacy of the course. The authors conclude the article with recommendations for future online course development.

Implications for Practice

The authors found it essential to begin their course construction by determining the central problems of practice. The questions focusing on identifying those problems were answered by their attending to state and professional teaching. They subsequently developed a series of tracking forms (the Problems-of-Practice Matrix, the Problems-of-Practice-Outcomes Matrix, and the Problems-of-Practice-Assessment Matrix) to help them articulate how this course supports the vision of our special education program.
These tracking forms also help them balance the activities over the whole course and avoid having the workload be heavier in some weeks and lighter in others.
Moreover, the use of structured interactive activities offers the possibility of providing teachers with meaningful learning opportunities.
Furthermore, Teacher educators must be responsive to student feedback. In the authors' course, student feedback influenced subsequent course revisions in very direct ways. Every activity has been reviewed, with special attention to activities that received a low rating. For some activities, the directions were rewritten, whereas in other cases, an activity was combined with another, substantially reworked, or eliminated altogether.
Finally the authors believe that the key to successful preparation is to engage students in high levels of interaction and deep and meaningful cognitive processing while exploring authentic professional problems of practice. However, achieving this level of engagement online is no easy task, yet it is critical if online courses and programs are to be used as credible options for professional preparation in high-touch fields. The authors created an online learning experience that helped prepare teachers to work with students who have severe needs. They used design of the course which focusing the on personalization (student-to-instructor interaction), meaningful engagement (student-to-content interaction), and ongoing checks of student understanding (student-to-instructor and student-to-content interactions).

Updated: Dec. 15, 2019
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