I am skeptical about the phrase “best practices,” especially in online course development. After all, in a face-to-face course we accept a wide variety of teaching styles. Shouldn’t the same be true for online classes?
Yes, there are some basic things that all online classes should avoid. No one likes dead links, incorrect test answers, and unmonitored discussion boards. But if we set aside obvious problems, what else can we learn about course design from a best practices perspective?
- The best online classes maintain their humanity. They capture some of the professor’s personality, and they understand that students are real people.
- Information is easy to find. The best classes do not bury tests, contacts, article links, or any other necessary information under a mountain of clicks.
- Mastery assessments support instruction. Online students need to be able to test their understanding of the material as they go along. For example, professors can include testing that students can repeat until they conquer the material.
- Course materials evolve. Because online classes cost time up front, there is an incentive not to revise them once they are “good enough.” But online classes live on the Internet, not in a windowless room down the hall. Online classes need to keep up with the times.
Are there best practices in online course development? Sure. The best online classes have devoted teachers, thoughtful development, and evolving content. In other words, they are just like the best face-to-face classes.