Quality Online Teaching: Managing the Online Teaching Workload

We often tell students that they need to be organized to manage their workload when they take an online course. But, it is even more important for you to manage your own time when teaching an online course. The lack of pre-defined, scheduled class times, combined with navigating the tools for online grading and communication can make it feel overwhelming. This archived online workshop will introduce you to some strategies for keeping up with the course, techniques that can save you time, and best practices to manage student expectations of you, including some simple suggestions for saving time and increasing your efficiency.

Quality Online Course Series: 7 Online Workshops with Tips for Designing Quality Online Courses

Quality Online Course SeriesIn Spring 2015, Northern Illinois University Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center developed and offered for the first time a series of 7 online workshops sharing principles, best practices, and tips for designing and developing quality online courses. The workshops were archived and available for on-demand viewing below or directly within the series playlist on YouTube. Kudos to my NIU colleagues, Stephanie Richter and Tracy Miller, for developing and offering the series!

Ensuring Quality in Your Online Course

1/23 Archive Thumbnail

How do you know if your online course is good? More importantly, how do you make it better? In this archived workshop offered 1/23/15, you will learn about why quality is important and how to create more student-centered online courses by using the Quality Matters rubric (a nationally-recognized benchmark for online course design based on research-supported best practices). After viewing this archived online workshop, you will be prepared to develop or improve an online course that is designed to promote student learning. View archived workshop »

Learning Objectives and Assessments

1/23 Archive Thumbnail

Once you have established objectives and the assessments to measure them, the next step is to create and/or curate course content and instructional materials to support the learning objectives. It is also important to clearly explain the purpose, source, and alignment of instructional materials. In this archived online workshop offered 2/13/15, you will learn about creating and curating course content from quality sources as well as communicating them to your students. View archived workshop »

Course Content & Instructional Materials

2/27 Archive Thumbnail

Once you have established objectives and the assessments to measure them, the next step is to create and/or curate course content and instructional materials to support the learning objectives. It is also important to clearly explain the purpose, source, and alignment of instructional materials. In this archived online workshop offered 2/27/15, you will learn about creating and curating course content from quality sources as well as communicating them to your students. View archived workshop »

Course Activities & Student Engagement

3/6 Archive Thumbnail

How do you encourage students to be fully engaged in an online course? By designing engaging and active, which foster interaction with you, the other students, and the content. In this archived online workshop offered 1/27/16, you will be introduced to some strategies to build learning activities which connect to your course objectives, as well as engage students in their own learning. View archived workshop »

Promoting Learning with Technology

3/20 Archive Thumbnail

In an online course, technology is necessary for connecting with students, engaging them in learning, and assessing their knowledge. It’s important to choose the right tools that support the learning objectives but are also obtainable and suitable for student use. In this online workshop offered 3/20/15, you will learn how to ensure technology in an online course supports learning and discover some tools you can incorporate into an online course. View archived workshop »

Accessibility, Usability, & Student Support

4/10 Archive Thumbnail

Online students can feel isolated, but they don’t have to be. In this online workshop offered 4/10/2015, you will explore how usability and accessibility can set students up for success. You will also learn how to connect students with valuable support services. View archived workshop »

Getting Students Started

4/24 Archive Thumbnail

Now that you have designed a high quality online course based on the other standards, you are ready to introduce it to your students. Set the right tone and support student success by helping them get started with a welcome message, a course tour, or a navigation guide. In this online workshop offered 4/24/2015 we will explore best practices for introducing course structure to your students and building community View archived workshop »

Blackboard Relaunches Exemplary Course Program


As a long-time proponent of Blackboard’s Exemplary Course Program, I was pleased to see a tweet from Deb Everhart last week announcing that Blackboard has relaunched its Exemplary Course Program, which had been on hiatus since this past year.

Bb Exemplary Course Program RubricFor those unfamiliar with the Blackboard Exemplary Course Program (ECP), it began in 2000 with the goal of identifying and disseminating best practices for designing high quality courses. The core of the program is the ECP Rubric, which defines key characteristics of high quality courses within the framework of Course Design, Interaction and Collaboration, Assessment, and Learner Support. Thousands of instructors, teachers, and designers have used the Exemplary Course Program to evaluate and improve their courses with recognized best practices.

For more information about the Blackboard Exemplary Course Program, visit blackboard.com/ecp. You can also tour an example course that received the exemplary course distinction.

Sample Blackboard Portfolio Layouts

Sample Portfolio Sarah JohnsonWith the recent upgrade to Blackboard Learn 9.1 April 2014 release at Northern Illinois University, we enabled the Blackboard Portfolio tool, designed to help students maintain documentation of their education, samples of their work, and evidence of their skills. ePortfolios, such as the Blackboard Portfolio, contain an organized collection of artifacts (for example, assignments, photos, video) as evidence of accomplishments.

To help students and faculty get a better feel for the layout options as well as media elements that can be included in a Blackboard Portfolio, I created the following sample Blackboard Portfolios to demonstrate the layout and organizational options available:

Sample Layout 1: Left Vertical Navigation

Sample Layout 1

View portfolio using layout 1

Sample Layout 2: Right Vertical Navigation

Sample Layout 2

View portfolio using layout 2

Sample Layout 3: Right Navigation Box

Sample Layout 3

View portfolio using layout 3

Sample Layout 4: Top Horizontal Navigation

Sample Layout 4

View portfolio using layout 4

The layouts shown above all use the same default color scheme, which can be customized in any layout to a wide variety of color palettes.

Here are a few additional screenshots shared by Blackboard showing a few additional sample portfolios.

More Blackboard Portfolio Resources

The NIU Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center is developing a comprehensive set of documentation, guides, and tutorials for faculty and students in their use of the Blackboard Portfolio tool. Visit niu.edu/blackboard/students/portfolios for more info.

Has your institutional implemented the Blackboard Portfolio tool? Leave a comment and let’s connect.

Recommended Books on Blended Learning

From time to time I’m asked what books I recommend for someone interested in learning more about blended learning. For those interested in a more in-depth read, here are a few on my bookshelf that I highly recommend. Most of these should be available via your local institutional library.

Blended Learning in Higher Education: Framework, Principles, and Guidelines by D. Randy Garrison and Norman D. Vaughn. (2007). ISBN: 0787987700

Blended Learning in Higher Education

In this much-needed book, authors D. Randy Garrison and Norman D. Vaughan present the foundational research, theoretical framework, scenarios, principles, and practical guidelines for the redesign and transformation of the higher education curriculum.This groundbreaking book offers a down-to-earth resource for the practical application of blended learning in higher education as well as a comprehensive examination of the topic. Well-grounded in research, Blended Learning in Higher Education clearly demonstrates how the blended learning approach embraces the traditional values of face-to-face teaching and integrates the best practices of online learning. This approach has proven to both enhance and expand the effectiveness and efficiency of teaching and learning in higher education across disciplines.

Blended Learning in Higher Education

  • Outlines seven blended learning redesign principles
  • Explains the professional development issues essential to the implementation of blended learning designs
  • Presents six illustrative scenarios of blended learning design
  • Contains practical guidelines to blended learning redesign
  • Describes techniques and tools for engaging students

Available in paperback or Kindle versions from Amazon

How to Design and Teach a Hybrid Course: Achieving Student-Centered Learning through Blended Classroom, Online and Experiential Activities by Jay Caulfield (2011). ISBN: 1579224237

How to Design and Teach a Hybrid Course

This practical handbook for designing and teaching hybrid or blended courses focuses on outcomes-based practice. It reflects the author’s experience of having taught over 70 hybrid courses and having worked for three years in the Learning Technology Center at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, a center that is recognized as a leader in the field of hybrid course design.

Jay Caulfield defines hybrid courses as ones where not only is face time replaced to varying degrees by online learning, but also by experiential learning that takes place in the community or within an organization with or without the presence of a teacher; and as a pedagogy that places the primary responsibility of learning on the learner, with the teacher’s primary role being to create opportunities and environments that foster independent and collaborative student learning.

Starting with a brief review of the relevant theory – such as andragogy, inquiry-based learning, experiential learning and theories that specifically relate to distance education – she addresses the practicalities of planning a hybrid course, taking into account class characteristics such as size, demographics, subject matter, learning outcomes, and time available. She offers criteria for determining the appropriate mix of face-to-face, online, and experiential components for a course, and guidance on creating social presence online.

Available in paperback from Amazon

Blended Learning: Across the Disciplines, Across the Academy (New Pedagogies and Practices for Teaching in Higher Education) edited by Francine Glazer. (2011). ISBN: 1579223249

Blended Learning by Glazer

The book constitutes a practical introduction to blended learning, illustrated by implementations across a broad spectrum of disciplines. It enables faculty unfamiliar with this mode to address the core challenge of blended learning―to link the activities in each medium so that they reinforce each other to create a single, unified, course―and offers models they can adapt.

This book contains examples of specific blended courses and frank discussions of the challenges unique to each course. Each instructor used blended learning differently to address those challenges, so five different types of course design are presented. Blended learning is a flexible pedagogical tool that can be used in many different disciplines and implemented as many different ways to engage students and enhance their learning.

Available in paperback or hard cover from Amazon

Essentials for Blended Learning: A Standards-Based Guide by Jared Stein and Charles R. Graham. (2013). ISBN: 0415636167

Blended Learning: A Standards-Based Guide

Essentials for Blended Learning: A Standards-Based Guide provides a practical, streamlined approach for creating effective learning experiences by blending online activities and the best of face-to-face teaching.

This guide is:

Easy to use: Clear, jargon-free writing; illustrations; and references to online resources help readers understand concepts.

Streamlined: A simple but effective design process focuses on creating manageable activities for the right environment.

Practical: Real-world examples from different subject areas help teachers understand principles in context.

Contemporary: The variety of modern, connected technologies covered in the guide addresses a range of teaching challenges.

Forward-Looking: The approach bridges the gap between formal classroom learning and informal lifelong learning.

Standards-based: Guidelines and standards are based on current research in the field, relevant learning theories, and practitioner experiences.

Effective blended learning requires significant rethinking of teaching practices and a fundamental redesign of course structure. Essentials for Blended Learning: A Standards-Based Guide simplifies these difficult challenges without neglecting important opportunities to transform teaching. This guide is suitable for teachers in any content area.

Available in paperback, hardcover, and Kindle from Amazon

What favorite books of yours regarding blended learning did I leave off my list above? Leave a comment with your recommendations.