By David Griffin
In recent years, large online courses offered by traditional universities have become increasingly popular. These courses allow the university to gain from larger audiences, while enabling students greater flexibility in their learning. It also brings high quality education to a larger and broader audience. In the Covid-19 era, distance education has never played a greater role in the lives of so many.
There are, however, concerns over the learning experience gained by students through online education and whether student satisfaction is comparable to the more traditional experience of university life. Studies have suggested that the knowledge gained is comparable, however the overall experience is frequently less fulfilling (Kauffman, 2016). Another obstacle to provision of online courses is the expertise required by educators. While their knowledge of the subject matter may be unquestionable, their proficiency in the technology needed to deliver that knowledge remotely may fall short.
With the limited time available to educators in mind, a control engineering lecturer at the University of Pretoria has aimed to summarize the process of adapting a successful traditional lecture for online delivery (Bauer, 2019). While Margaret Bauer’s specific focus was a control engineering lecture, the same processes may be applied to other subjects within engineering and beyond.
The first step in creating online lectures is to dissect the original traditional lecture. Due to their nature, online lectures are ideally shorter than in-person classes. To assist with this process, the lecturer should watch and critically assess a number of existing online courses offered by other institutions to gain a better understanding of what is and is not effective.
In conjunction with this research, the lecturer should critically assess their original lecture while answering the following questions:
Once the initial dissection of the lecture content is complete and the aforementioned questions answered, the design of the online course can begin.
In the adaption of a traditional lecture, the sequence of the student workload must be considered. Throughout the course, students should be periodically provided with a clear outline of the tasks expected of them under the headings of Watch, Read, Discuss and Write. This provides them with detailed tasks to ensure they cover all content of the course effectively.
In advance of the lecture ‘going live’, colleagues and volunteers should be asked to follow the workflow. Learners may find particular work and content sequences are more effective than others. In this way, the feedback of colleagues and volunteers is crucial to workflow design.
The next aspect of online course design is to decide whether students can set their own pace for completing course content. Alternatively, the lecturer can prescribe work to be completed on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. According to Bauer (2019), prescribing work within time restrictions has demonstrated higher pass and student retention rates, helping students maintain their focus and stick to a sensible schedule. However, the author stresses the importance of allowing access to all material for the duration of the course. This allows the students to be mindful of the future demands they’ll be under and schedule their workload accordingly.
Creating video content has become increasingly easy with the widespread availability of smartphones and personal computers. However, the ease of creating content does not negate the need to appropriately plan, design and record it.
Bauer suggests three main options for video lectures. However, a well-produced online lecture may contain a combination of all three:
Both image and sound quality are of utmost importance for the audience. The lecturer may also benefit from a written script, to ensure content is delivered in a clear, concise and accessible manner. While it is often uncomfortable to watch videos of oneself, watching created content back is of vital importance. It allows unhelpful or distracting habits to be controlled and content delivery to improved. Similarly, asking colleagues and peers to constructively critique the work can help draw attention to content gaps or errors before delivery to students.
Students often require support from the lecturer and their peers during a traditional university course. Online lectures are no different. Online discussion boards within the learning environment used (such as Moodle or Blackboard) may be employed. It is crucial this environment is adequately moderated. The lecturer also has a responsibility to be dependably present to answer questions and support learners as needed.
In conclusion, the creation of successful online lectures may be summarised in six steps:
As the requirement for web-based lectures continues to grow, so too does the requirement on lecturers to become competent creators of online content. The simple tips and suggestions contained in this paper may act as an aid, helping educators faced with this task to impart knowledge as effectively online as they do in person.
Bauer, M. (2019). Translating a successful lecture into online course content – experiences of a control engineering lecturer. International Federation of Automatic Control (2019) 272-277.
Kauffman, H. (2015). A review of predictive factors of student success in and satisfaction with online learning. Research in Learning Technology, 23.