Best Practice for Online Courses

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1 RELAX Reutlingen University s Learning Platform Best Practice for Online Courses Content Design, Layout, Form Course Structure Resources and Activities Student Assessment Teaching Methodology RELAX https://relax.reutlingen university.de Further Information university.de/relax Reutlingen University Computer Center Gus Hagelberg Tel university.de

2 1. Introduction This document is designed to assist you, as a university teacher, to create a successful blended learning course in RELAX (Moodle). The goal is to help you understand the benefits of blended learning and to provide you with basic tools to implement these methods. The demo course Best Practice Demo Course is available for you to test various best practices. Just log on to RELAX and click Help > Best Practice at the top of the page. I want to thank Prof. Yoany Beldarrain for her invaluable information gained after years of experience in blended learning. 1 RELAX Best Practice

3 2. Design, Layout, Form The success of your online course depends, in part, on its visual impact on your students. By following these basic guidelines your students are more likely to accept, understand and appreciate your online course. Easy to read, user-friendly Use only the standard font types and formatting tools (ie. header 1, header 2 ) Headers and summary text help orientation Try not to clutter up your course page Place content in extra documents (PDF, Word, etc.) Titles for documents and activities should be clear and concise Design should be pleasing to the eye Content should have a consistent design and functionality Use a clear and simple navigation Use images to make the page more interesting and involving Use blocks only when necessary and keep them on the left side of the course page Clear structure The course page should not be too long Place basic course information at the top of the page Use the course format Collapsed Topics Student should only be presented with relevant information Students should be given a clear overview of the course contents Make clear which material and activities are mandatory RELAX Best Practice 2

4 3. Course Structure In this section we will be addressing the various elements of our Best Practice course and the methodology behind using them. These are, of course, only suggestions and do not have to be adopted in their entirety. At the University of Reutlingen teachers can choose to have their courses set up automatically and with a standardized design (template). The course page of each RELAX course is divided up into blocks, header and a series of sections (topics). The illustration bellow describes the elements of a well structured course. Recent Activity displays announcements and content updates Course Title, Contact Info and Teacher Profile Picture help give students orientation Activity Description of activity displayed on course page Upcoming Events shows future events and deadlines Custom Section Name, Summary and Image Labels (formatted as Heading 3), indented Resources and Activities create a hierarchy and an improved layout 3 RELAX Best Practice

5 Header In the header area of your course it is recommended that you place the logo of your faculty and the course name. By placing the faculty logo at the top and by following these guidelines you contribute to an online corporate identity. It is helpful for the students if you place your photo and your contact information here. You should also encourage students to upload their photos to their profiles. This will help create a sense of community and help you to associate names to faces. In header area it is also recommended to place the following material and activities: Syllabus: This contains an overview of the course content, information on grading and other basic information. This helps students improve their time management skills. Feedback: With a feedback activity you can, for example, allow your students to present some information about their background, goals, etc. You can also create a simple survey in order to allow the students to assess the quality or value of your class. Forums: In the News Forum (a.k.a. Announcements ) teachers create posts which are sent via E Mail to the participants. Students cannot post in this forum. A second forum for student involvement is also recommended. This forum plays a key role in creating engaging online courses and is designed to allow students the space to actively discuss and debate the issues they have been learning. Teachers need to moderate this type of discussion forum. They need to pose questions, monitor answers and sometimes provide answers. Depending on the design of the course, questions can be used to introduce a topic that will be discussed in class, or to extend a topic that was discussed in class. A good practice is to pose a question each week and encourage your students to respond and comment. RELAX Best Practice 4

6 Forum posts can also be used to help grade students. This, obviously, will increase their participation. The teaching methodology used here is constructivist learning, where students are actively engaged in the discussion and learn from each other s perspective. Teachers can gain valuable insight into students learning through the forum posts and students can also profit by learning how to verbalize, ask good questions and respond with intelligent answers. A virtual office can also be created using forums. Students can ask questions here that are ok for classmates to see. Teachers need, then, to make sure they respond to the questions. Sections Each RELAX course contains one or more sections. Depending upon the course format you choose under Course administration > Edit setting > Course format the sections will be displayed differently. We recommend you use Collapsed Topics. It allows students to collapse the topics which are not presently being discussed. Independent of the course format you choose, each section typically contains the course material for one particular course week or unit. Each section should have a clear title, an image and a summary of the goals for the week or unit. Labels are helpful to group resources and activities. Resources, activities and sections should have clear, informative names. By indenting resources and activities you create a distinct hierarchy, making the page easier to grasp. It can be helpful to your students if you show the description of an activity or resource (check Display description on course page in the setting for an item). 5 RELAX Best Practice

7 Blocks Blocks are helpful to show current information like upcoming due dates or new forum posts. The blocks Navigation and Administration are predefined and cannot be removed. You can add additional blocks to your course page which will be visible to your students. You should try to limit the number of blocks on your course page so that students are not overwhelmed with information. Blocks should appear only on the left. The following blocks are recommended: Recent activity Upcoming events RELAX Best Practice 6

8 4. Resources and Activities Resources Resources include PowerPoint presentations, videos, links, learning goals for the week, chapters from textbooks or a summary of the previous lectures. These present students with core themes and information needed for the unit. Goals: Motivation, easing student s introduction to the topic, assistance in preparation and review of the week s lectures, clarifying which topics are relevant to exams and more in depth learning. Methods: Uploading files, text, photos Resources (optional) References, links, photos and further material related to the current topic are presented to the students each week. Goals: Saves times for the students by presenting them with relevant material. Methods: Uploading files, text, photos Lists of resources, links, images and further materials can be provided weekly to your students. Activity: Forum As mentioned in the section above, forums should be set up for students to critically discuss course topics. It is recommended that you set up just one discussion forum for the entire course. As the teacher you can, for example, present a question each week and tell the students they have to answer the question and comment on answers from other students. Forum posts are sent via to participants so that a continual discussion outside of the classroom is possible. Goals: Continuous, constructivist learning, students learn from each other s perspectives, reducing fear of participation (students too shy to speak in the classroom have a viable alternative). Methods: Moodle activity Forum, automatic grading is possible 7 RELAX Best Practice

9 Activity: Choice or Feedback Students give feedback, including critique and recommended improvements, about lectures and course material. The entries can be anonymous if desired. Goals: Improving teaching in general, encouraging input from students about course content, teaching methods, etc. Methods: Moodle activity Choice or Feedback Activity: Quizzes Students and teachers can better assess their learning progress when short quizzes with current topics are presented. Goals: Increasing self confidence, improved self assessment Methods: Moodle activity Quiz Activity: Wiki or Etherpad A wiki is a tool to create collaborative authored content. The Etherpad activity is similar but also allows simultaneous editing of the same text. Goals: Collaboration among students, knowledge transfer Methods: Moodle activity Wiki or Etherpad RELAX Best Practice 8

10 5. Student Assessment At the beginning of each semester it is important to communicate to your students how you will be using the online course, what role it plays and what expectations you have. Will the student s online activity be, in some fashion, used in grading? Approximately how much time do you expect students to invest in online learning outside of the classroom? Will there be material placed in the online course which students are required to read or complete? If you plan on using online tests please refer to the brochure Erstellung von Tests in RELAX available from the Computer Center. List offers the teacher an overview of grades for all students 6. Tracking Activity Completion With the Activity completion feature of RELAX you can see an overview of the work your students have completed. In order to use this feature you have to enable completion tracking in the course settings. To view the students process just go to Administration > Course administration > Reports > Activity completion 9 RELAX Best Practice

11 7. Teaching Methodology Your online course should provide various opportunities for interactive learning and communication (between students and between students and teacher). Learning goals and grading schemes are clearly defined and are clearly linked with educational activities. Your course offers a variety of audio, visual and textual activities designed to improve learning. You can apply different learning methods in your course. How can online tools like Feedback, Assignment, Quiz, Forum or Wiki be used to improve upon the traditional teaching methods of lecture, classroom discussion, group activity and individual learning? How might you use RELAX to further motivate your students to actively get involved in the learning process? Evaluation and Grading The course offers sufficient opportunities for self assessment. Learning goals are linked to gradable activities. There are ample and timely opportunities for feedback on how a student is doing. Students are also able to provide feedback to other students. Feedback from Students Students are able to provide feedback about course material and teaching methods. Feedback is possible on the online platform. RELAX Best Practice 10

12 Computer Center Service Desk Service Desk des RMZ Building 20, Room 004 (from August 2014 in Building 3) Telephone: E Mail: university.de Contact: Jürgen Dippell Opening hours during the semester Monday Friday 09:00 12:00 Monday Thursday/Friday 13:00 18:00/17:00 11 RELAX Best Practice

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