Designing a successful online course

Learner, student, group  

If I am going design another course I will look more to the participants. And… that there will be time for participants to getting know each other by working together in small groups, do some fast Tweetchats ad having some structured conversations. What is important to know.

  • Background knowledge; when you are scientific educated you think different then someone who is entrepeneur.
  • Meta cognitive knowlege and learning; knowing about knowing and learning about learning; how do participants know about how they learn? How they process the knowledge and information they get?
  • Perspective; is the participant young, grown up in a non democratic country, mail and not used to gender equality, with a low grade, or is it a female, working 40 hours in a big city with lots of freedom, grown up in a well educated environment
  • Culture: How open can we be in discussions, could we ask direct questions to other participants, is the group more important than the individual?
  • Time available to study
  • Needs, self-awareness of needs. Does the participants know what they need for their next professional or personeal steps in the context of the course? Is the participants used to think about his needs as a part of learning responsability?
  • Adequate management of feelings; if you work online you have to manage feelings more than in real life. You have to ask for feedback if you are insecure. It is hard to see feelings of others, but… online you get used to hear more when you see less. It is like being blind.You have to know when it is nessacary to make an appointment in reallife to see someone.
  • Self regulation skills; learning to stear your own learningprocess, how to find motivation, what to need for expanding knowwledge, responsability to stay on the learning track, to focus and to play, taking initiative, always rock on,
  • Emotional intelligence; don’t be afraid for making failures.
  • Time management
  • Organisation, planning
  • Self evaluation
  • Technical skills & experience
  • Age
  • Behaviour, knowledge, experience on internet, Social Media
  • Collaborative skills
  • Feeling responsible  for own learningprocess
  • Control of the language spoken in the course
  • Group dynamics

Succes components (thx to Fredric)

o   Course is wel structured

o   interactive

o   relevant

o   instructor facilitated

Succes components for Digital habitants [FF1]

  1. They prize freedom and freedom of choice.
  2. They love to customize things, make them their own.
  3. They’re natural collaborators, who enjoy a conversation, not a lecture.
  4. They’ll scrutinize you and your organization.
  5. They insist on integrity and openness.
  6. They want to have fun, even at work and at school.
  1. They have a need for speed and speed is normal for them.
  2. They are innovators and for them innovation is part of life.
  3. They instinctively turn first to the Net to communicate, understand, learn.
  4. They are constantly creating or changing online content.
  5. They seem to feast on technology and have an appetite for all things digital that is sometimes mind-boggling.
  6. They seem to lack long attention spans, at least when it comes to listening to lectures.
  7. They show signs of learning differently and the best of them make yesterday’s cream of the crop look dull.
  8. Growing up digital has had an impact on how they think and even changed the way their brains are wired. Two of the smartest brain scientists, – Stanley Kutcher and Matthew Kutcher – conducted research which found that Net Geners’ brains have indeed developed differently than those of their parents (p.29). The are wired differently from those of the previous generations.
  9. The generation is smarter and quicker then their predecessors.
  10. In education, they are forcing a change in the model of pedagogy, from a teacher-focused approach based on instruction to a student-focused model based on collaboration.
  11. xviii.  They use the programmable web to create their own content, collaborate with others, and build communities.
  12. They don’t just take what they are given. They are the active initiators, collaborators, organizers, readers, writers.
  13. They do not just observe, they participate. They inquire, discuss, argue, critique, investigate, seek and inform.
  14. They search for, rather than simply look at information. This helps them to develop thinking and investigative skills.
  15. They care about their/, education: the vast majority thinks that having a college degree is more important today than it was for their parents. For once in our civilization, children are educating older people. Adults are looking to children for information and help with computer related stuff.
  16. In Finland, the government has chosen 5,000 Net Geners to train the country’s teachers in how to use computers. For the first time ever, in one domain, the students will be the teachers and the teachers the students.
  17. They want to learn, but they want to learn only what they have to learn, and they want to learn it in a style that is best for them.
  18. Sitting mutely in front of a teacher doesn’t appeal to them.

Professional development

  • Who will be designing the course? The teacher, The instructional designer, The content-specialist or collaboaration?
  • What is the level of professional development and how can it be increased?
  • Is help, service and support available for these teachers?

How to Start?

  • What kind of course is it? Is it about vocational training, is it about building knowledge, is it about imaging? Is it content driven, is it experienced driven, is it personal driven, is it economical driven…
  • Is there a vision on learning? On the topic of the course? From who is the vision?
  • What are the learning principles? And if there is lack on learning principles how to design the course?
  • Is there knowledge about the students of the course. Could we make persona’s?

Design Frames

  • Content driven
  • Competency driven
  • Learning strategies driven
  • Personal relevance driven
  • Social impact driven
  • Relational frame (relating elements of materials, and articuating different views
  • Labor market/work relevance (FF)

Scaffolding on learning

  • Structure is required [FF2]
  • Don’t start with content if students are NOT familiar with the tools and software [FF2]
  • Deliver human interaction on service & support [FF2]
  • Deliver human interaction on learning activities synchronously [FF2]
  • ·Deliver human interaction on s-synchronous learning activities. [FF2]

Consider your role as an online teacher.

  • What is the difference of being an online teacher or a f2f teacher?
  • Are you an organiser or director (like in a film, you have a vision and that is what you want, you let them do it, but you are influencing the crew) of the course? Are you also the content-expert? What rules dor you have?
  • You have to work more structured, more plannend, more stearing. You have to have a plan, but you can’t really plan it because of input of students and the unpredictable of the process. The facilitator needs skills to stear the car and to ensure that we make progress
  • The teacher/facilitator is creating interaction. You can give structure to an online course/ synchronous session and creating interaction by using several chat pods, question pods, whiteboards, or other collective boards
  • Online, you can’t see bodylanguage so well, but you see something if the webcam is used (fredric ;-). Like a blind person, you will focus more on a voice to get secundary information (bodylanguage)
  • Is your role just to be there? Where does the scaffolding starts and where does it ends? What is the underlayerd vision and learning assumptions
  • What increases the status of the facilitator for the students? When is the facilitator OK, when is she/he doing his job properly  according to the students
  • Could students take the role of the teacher/facilitator? Can you change (part of) roles or do you need special expertise, skills? Thinking heads? The Bono


Giving Feedback and recieving feedback

  • Did we made feedback rules?
  • As a teacher could we have a personal style of giving feedback or do you have to have feedback skills?
  • What is the value of content-feedback and process-feedback? How much time do you put as a teacher in both? (related to the learning activities in total)

Where is the feedback about:

  1. a) Process-driven feedback: keeping groupmembers envolved
  • About keeping an eye on drop-outs in spé, motivating groupmembers,
  • Being there for everyone. The dad & mom function. “The security blanket” (Catherine) “Sitting in the backseat of the car, while the group is driving”.
  • About the process of the group? or process of group-members
  • About “staying on track”
  • Stearing the groupdiscussion so groupmembers are maximum engaged and involved
  • Guarding atmosphere in the group – stay always cooool.
  1. b) Content-driven feedback: facilitate learning
  • About content produced by the group? or by group-members
  • About thoughts/reflections the group? or by group-members
  • Asking questions for enlarge comprehension by groupmembers about conten-discussions
  • Helping to make vision, knowledge and experience of groupmembers more explicite about topics
  1. c) A-synchronous feedback
  • A-synchronous of the facilitators and groupmembers is important for staying engaged and involved, and it is personal, so very valuable to learn more about how you are doing comparing to the rest of the group; process-driven. But it is also feedback of the content which is shared. Some questions about you blog will help you to think in a different way. More in depth or wider.
  • See also Brene Brown “Engaged feedback:×10.pdf
  1. d) Peer feedback
  • Feedback of students, peer feedback is more important for the learner than feedback of facilitators. (Anna 😉 & Mona). See also Eric Mazur: .m.

Synchronous Learning activities, groupwork online

  • What does a teacher need for succesful scaffolding in groupwork?
  • How does the teacher support progess (aims course)?
  • How does the teacher support effectiveness?
  • When is groupwork OK?
  • Wich models could we use for effective and motivating groupwork?
    • for imaging
    • for opinionning
    • for decisionmaking
    • research and inquiry
    • developing/constructing a group product
    • for problem solving
    • for presenting
    • ……
  • Making commitments as a facilutator/teacher with the group, to reach the goals (WISE Conference… where?)
  • How to work on group dynamics online, when there is lack of fysical conact and emotions are less shown by students. How do you develop hearing skills?
  • What is  Group dynamics, about?

o   communication rules,

o   rules in the group

o   openness in the group,

o   culture making failures and mistakes, feedback rules,

o   routines,

o   methods used as Fish, Scrum etc.

o   How is emotional Intelligence influencing the group?

Learning materials

  • What is the function of the learning material in the course?
  • Who brings in the learning materials? Teachers, students, both?

Pitfalls to avoid

  • Start with a tiny course
  • Work together with an instructional designer and others
  • Take time to think about the concept
  • Put a lot of time in clear aims
  • Put a lot of time in students relevance and needs (maybe also labor market relevance)
  • Focus on structure and simplicity
  • Use the scaffolding on learning scheme of Gilly Salmon for the big structure
  • Don’t start to learn when people are not familiar with technics, with platforms, software
  • Let students help you
  • Be reachable for human interaction at specific times


1.[FF1]: Theoretical Perspectives of How Digital Natives Learn. Dr. Charles Kivunja, 2014

2 [FF2] Salmon, G. (2013) Scaffolding for online learning.

  1. [FF3] Conole, G. (2016). The 7Cs of Learning Design.


  1.     [Fr1] Kauffman, Heather. “A review of predictive factors of student success in and satisfaction with online learning.” Research in Learning Technology 23 (2015).
  2.      [Fr3] McIsaac, Marina Stock, et al. “Student and teacher perceptions of interaction in online computer‐mediated communication.” Education Media International 36.2 (1999): 121-131.
  3.     [Fr4] Bourne, John, Dale Harris, and Frank Mayadas. “Online engineering education: Learning anywhere, anytime.” Journal of Engineering Education 94.1 (2005): 131.
  4.     [Fr5] Asplund et al., “Deliverable 4.2 Report on Best Practices and Professional Training”, CPSELabs EU Support Action,

Francisca Frenks



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