Adventures of a Technology Challenged Online Instructor

More Thoughts on Course Design (Week 4)
More Thoughts on Course Design (Week 4) avatar

After reading the rest of Chapter 3 and viewing the course tours from John, Pilar, and Jean, I’m feeling more comfortable and confident with my own Course Design.

I really related to John’s Course Design – how everything was simply listed week by week.  My current Blackboard Course is similar in format.  I also liked how Pilar had her course open directly the the week’s assignments.  Right now, my course opens up the the “Announcements” page.  I send out a weekly email announcement with key points, ideas, due dates/etc. that I’ve also recently converted to an audio announcement for students to listen to (in Wimba Voice Authoring in the Blackboard CMS).  However, I think it may be beneficial to create the announcement directly in the corresponding week’s assignments.  That way students won’t have to click around as much in the Blackboard site.  I also liked how Jean added pictures to her weekly assignments to keep it more visually interesting.  This is something I’ve been trying to add to my course as well.  I’ve been trying to add either a simple picture that goes along with what we’re covering for the week, or sometimes a YouTube video on the topic.

The “Course Planning Template” in Chapter 3 helped me focus on areas where I need to improve course design and also highlighted areas where I’m on the right track:

  • Instructor Generated Content:  This is in area where I am definitely lacking.  I have Powerpoint slides posted for my students on the chapter that we’re covering that week.  There is no audio narration or description.  It’s basically the slides I use for my on ground course, but without the benefit of discussion or lecture.  I’m confident most students don’t even bother opening the powerpoints after the 1st week or so in the course.  This is a major concern for me, so this is definitely one of my top priorities when it comes to re-developing the course

  • Discussion:  I think I’m on the right track with my online discussion boards.  Students must respond to a discussion question I pose each week.  (It can range from researching a credible website and sharing what they learned with the class, telling the class what they learned from an assignment, or sharing thoughts on various health laws, etc.)  Once student’s respond to my question, they must also provide a response to another student’s post.  (Everything is done asynchronously.)  This is the most interaction my online students have at this point.  There was a Facebook post earlier this week regarding synchronous sessions that got me thinking about how to offer some sort of synchronous video chat.  This is something I am very interested in trying.


  • Group-Oriented Work:  Again, my class is lacking in this department.  I’m trying to determine what would be the best way to get my online students to work together in groups.  What I’ve come up with so far as to have my students work in groups to motivate each other for their semester long “Lifestyle Wellness Project” where they try to change a health-related behavior they have.  I’m not sure at this point how I can tie “points” to this group work, but I may just try it as an “optional” item for now to see how it works.


  • Assessments:  My students take online quizzes each week on their chapter reading.  I limit the time on the quizzes so there’s no possible way that students can look up every answer in their text and finish the quiz in time.  I do like the idea of adding questions from sources other than the textbook.  This may be something else to consider.  I am also currently not using Turnitin and after having a suspected “cheater” just last week, I am rethinking that choice.  I think I’ll start with the end-of-the semester reseach paper this term and have students submit that through Turnitin.  Besides the weekly Chapter quizzes, my students also have a weekly assignment related to the topic we’re covering.  Luckily, I teach Health, so most of the assignment my students complete are about themselves.  During the Nutrition Chapter, students keep a food diary and analyze their nutrient intake on a free website.  This week, we’re covering pregnancy, so students are watching an online PBS video (“Life’s Greatest Miracle”) and answering questions.  I do think students enjoy the weekly assignments because most of them are specifically designed to focus on their own health and wellness.


So all-in-all, I think I’m a bit better off than I had originially thought, but I’ve definitely narrowed down a couple of key points that I want to change about my current course.

2 Responses to “More Thoughts on Course Design (Week 4)
More Thoughts on Course Design (Week 4) avatar

  1. J. Proppe says:

    Hi Melissa – Great observations! I think it is helpful to start small. I felt the most comfortable adding pictures first. Since then I have added weekly short video overviews of what is expected that particular week.

    One suggestion regarding your Powerpoints: you might consider using them for a summary of a unit of material rather than completely replicating your F2F course. My weekly boxes have lecture readings, text readings and internet resources that they need to research. I also don’t time my online quizzes since I want them to do some online research and not rely on every answer being “in the book” so to speak. Just my 2 cents 😀

  2. Walter Muryasz says:


    If you are thinking of using the Powerpoints from your F2F class you might break the PP up into small sections and put a self-test between the sections.
    You can also add an audio to the slides. The audio could help explain some relevant point about the slide or suggest researching some additional source material. You might also have the students keep a Journal on their diet or other health related issue.