Designing an effective online course includes many different characteristics. Many of these characteristics are effective regardless if you are teaching in a conventional classroom, entirely online, or in a blended learning environment. I believe Lisa Dawley summarized them best in her book The Tools for Successful Online Teaching. In this, she stresses the importance of engaging students with challenging activities that allow students to collaborate with each other (Dawley,2007). To do this, the instructor needs to provide some type of learning environment platform via social media, Google docs, or similar that are centered around collaboration. Through these platforms, students will not only be able to collaborate amongst each other, but will also have access to a multitude of other resources. The last characteristics I believe to be essential in an effective online course are open communication with the instructor, and flexible deadlines for assignments. Because of the lack of face-time that goes along with online courses, it is imperative that the instructor is available through multiple avenues of communication such as phone, email, messaging, social media, etc. Most often, the type of student that takes an online course is someone who is very busy and is taking classes in addition to family, work, or other commitments. Because of this, I believe online courses should have recommended dates of completion, rather than firm deadlines.
My readings from Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States 2011 further my belief that learning outcomes in online courses are as good as or better than those for face-to-face instruction. Two-thirds of all academic leaders believe this as well, and this number continues to increase as more and more institutions start offering online courses. (Allen, 2011) In Going the Distance, they evaluated student to faculty communication, perceived student satisfaction, course pace, and the correlation between the number of online courses an institution offers and their rating of the quality. Through these, they found that the number of students and faculty who prefer the overall quality of online courses is increasing dramatically.
It may be a generalization, but I believe the academic leaders that are not currently on board with online education is due to the fact that their education was most likely done in a traditional classroom rather than online. I would love to see a breakdown of the demographics of academic leaders that are against online education.
Allen, I.E., & Seaman, J. (2011). Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States 2011. Babson Survey Research Group
Dawley, L. (2007). The Tools for Successful Online Teaching. Hershey, PA: Information Science Publishing