Course Conversion: class time to online and what it takes to do it succesfully

Consider this: you have three full years or 6 semesters of custom coursework that you have developed for your class in Speech and Communication Studies. You now have an opportunity to take this class to an online system. After you have followed most of the configuration and administration requirements for your institution, the next step then is to simply scan, type or cut and paste your existing coursework into the friendly learning management system (LMS) forms and editors. This is only partially true. You do have to find a way to transfer your coursework into the system, but it is critical that you understand that there are issues involved in moving your classroom based work to the online world.Current technology will allow you to quickly create coursework from your pre-existing material. However, even with careful planning, you must seriously consider a few things before delving into the process:

1.) Course conversion is not a one to one relationship. This means that regardless of the effectiveness of your classroom material in physical form, simply cutting and pasting or scanning your material may not be appropriate for an online presentation. For example, a paper-based assignment where the student must identify states of the union by coloring it in with crayon or magic marker and then handing it to the teacher for assessment will not necessarily work as an online activity. In it’s present form, the student must print out the activity, complete it and either turn it in to the teacher at the approriate time, or scan it into digital form and email it or upload it into the server. These are both completely acceptable ways of receiving instruction, however a more effective solution would be to create an online coloring book exercise that recreates the coloring process on paper. The downside of this is that unless you find an application that works with the LMS, this may not be possible unless you develop this application yourself (or with paid developers). This alternative will cost more money and time. Evaluate the worthiness of your classroom material as an online object prior to adding it to your list of content to be moved over to the LMS.

2.) The amount of work you must do to create new materials for the online course or to simply translate them over to the new system will take a long time. Some estimates place this at roughly one semester/quarter prior to deploying the course. Add to this the instruction that you must take in order to learn how to create the materials and you are now at nearly a whole academic year for training, planning and development. Give yourself MORE THAN ADEQUATE TIME to develop your course. Careful planning will increase your chances of a successful online course with few and more manageable technical errors. Superior time management and planning skills are key to comfort level during the development stage.

3.) During the planning stage, be mindful of the audience that will receive the course and their perceived technical ability. Remember that this is an ONLINE COURSE which requires the use of a computer to access the LMS. They must have the basic ability to operate a computer and to access the world wide web in order to see your coursework. Additionally, they may need to have other skills related to computer work and this will depend on the type of course you are creating and the type of activities you will include. For example, you may want your students to create a basic web page that they can post to the Internet as a way of establishing a user profile so that everyone can become acquainted. This activity requires that they understand HTML programming and that they may be able to do this with web development package such as DreamWeaver of Homesite and others. If this type of high-level programming is what you need in the course, then you must find a way to assess the class skill in HTML, or teach them this skill. Adding this type of activity to your course will add time to your development phase.

4.) During the development stage, be mindful of the evolution of your work and have colleagues review and critique your work as often as possible. In other words, avoid working on the course in a vacuum by relying only on your own internal guidelines and compass to assess the effectiveness of your work. It is important to have someone outside yourself or your own group review and evaluate the effectiveness of your course as early in the development process as possible. As a matter of fact, this critiquing process can actually begin during the planning process and continue in development. You will find that early review of the entire process will actually make the entire endeavour go quickly because potential errors and confusion can be addressed and fixed.


Additional Resources to support Course Conversion Processes:

  • Teaching with Technology Today: Volume 8, Number 6(http://www.uwsa.edu/ttt/articles/garnham2.htm) – This article reports on the most significant observations from the Hybrid Course Project and provides “Lessons Learned” about hybrid course design. Highly Recommended Reading!!
  • Lessons learned from teaching online journalism (http://www.ojr.org/ojr/stories/070612jensen/) – Commentary: A first-time instructor of online shares what he’s learned from his students this year. This article is anecdotal in nature and shows briefly what steps he took to create his online course and the results he observed with his students.
  • Preparing E-Learners for Online Success (http://www.learningcircuits.org/2005/sep2005/watkins.htm) – A brief but scholarly discussion on the demands of online technology for the students and teachers and strategies to use when planning your online course.