Leveraging Expert Instructional Designer Strategies to Develop Quality Online Courses

Workshop Session 1

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

As the demand for quality online courses continues to increase, the response by many institutions of higher education has been to seek national standards in course design and format to guide the online course development process.


Kevin Hulen has been involved in the design and development of online content for over 20 years. He currently focuses on the implementation of institutional-initiatives related to impact of online learning at the University of North Florida, including student satisfaction, faculty satisfaction, student success factors, and other analytics related to online course quality and review. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with family, playing soccer, and surfing.

Extended Abstract

As the demand for quality online courses continues to increase, the response by many institutions of higher education has been to seek national standards in course design and format to guide the online course development process. No longer is it acceptable for an instructor to simply "dump" their traditional-based classroom content into the online environment. Consequently, at many institutions the process of developing online courses is a collaborative effort that joins the content expertise of the instructor with the educational and technological expertise of an instructional designer. While this may be the obvious approach, not all institutions employ instructional designers; yet still assert their instructors are developing and delivering high-quality learner-engaged online courses. This presents formidable challenges for faculty that, in addition to ensuring their students receive a quality educational experience in their courses, also need to stay up-to-date on the latest logistical, technological, and pedagogical best practices for online course development and delivery.

To accomplish this goal, online instructors need definitive strategies that are simple, robust, and highly effective. Through the instructional designers' lens, the development of an online course is like putting together a puzzle with an undetermined number of pieces that must all join together before the actual pattern is revealed. To better understand this pattern and subsequently streamline the course development process, I devised a strategy for
conceptualizing the actual presentation of the online course prior to development. This strategy involves constructing a blueprint or schematic drawing of the major pieces of the course and defining how each piece fits together to produce what I call the Actual Representation of the Planned Curriculum (ARPC). In the ARPC, the
"planned curriculum" is the curriculum the instructor or department planned to deliver online, and the "actual representation" is the collection of methods, teaching strategies, and technology tools that will actually be used to deliver that curriculum.

While the ARPC is formulaic, it does not restrict creativity or assert control over student engagement. It is simply a constructive method for identifying the most effective way to ensure the course content is developed and delivered as planned.

In this workshop, participants will be introduced to the ARPC through a detailed presentation, three activities, and ongoing discussions. This session will be interactive and provide an opportunity for questions, answers, and/or whole group discussion throughout. In conclusion of this session, participants should be able use the ARPC strategy to determine for any course they will develop, whether or not the curriculum will actually be presented online as planned.

Constructing an ARPC

The workshop will begin with a detailed presentation of the ARPC along with exemplary examples of online courses developed using the ARPC, followed by an activity that involves the construction of an ARPC for a hypothetical online course.

In this activity participants use the handout provided to briefly state the "planned curriculum" by subject (Ex. Biology 101), identify 8-10 essential pieces for the online course, and illustrate direct and indirect connections between those pieces that are essential to delivering the "planned curriculum". This should lead to some interesting discussions concerning which pieces are considered essential and how different perspective can influence the "actual representation" of an online course. In conclusion of this activity, participants should have a simple schematic representation of an online course that can now be used to identify and evaluate instructor-student interactions.

Identifying Instructor-Student Interactions

In all likelihood, if you don't have some type of course schematic, such as an ARPC, it will be difficult to identify and evaluate the planned and unplanned instructor-student interactions in your online course. Which will also make it difficult for you to measure your efforts (instructor presence), resulting in the course being less responsive to change, and the level of autonomy required of the learner unnecessarily and unknowingly increased, all of which, could result in a negative learning experience for students.

In this activity participants will identify points of instructor-student interaction that occur within the connections between the pieces of the ARPC and rank those interactions based on importance. Again, this should lead to some interesting discussions concerning how many interactions (planned or unplanned) might actually exist between the pieces of an online course, which particular interactions are important, and how they should be managed.

Managing the ARPC

All pieces within the ARPC will be either directly or indirectly connected to each other as indicated by the lines drawn between them i.e. an ARPC does not contain isolated pieces. The strength of a direct connection between any two pieces is related to the number and rank of instructor-student interactions within them. Pieces that are indirectly connected will be more difficult to manage and tend to agitate the online learning experience in unexpected ways.

In this activity participants will outline logistical, technological, and/or pedagogical best practices for managing the instructor-student interactions identified in their ARPC. At the conclusion of this activity, the "actual presentation" of the online course becomes most clear, and the iterative course development process begins.

The workshop will conclude with a brief presentation and discussion of how systematic methods such as the ARPC can also be leveraged to streamline the transition of entire degree programs to fully online.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the workshop, learners should be able to:

ï Construct an ARPC for an online course.
ï Identify and rank important instructor-student interactions within the course.
ï Outline strategies for managing the ARPC.