Online courses can take a variety of forms, depending on the discipline, the goals of the course, and the characteristics and number of students. Most often, online courses are organized into weekly “sessions” that may or may not be further divided into separate lessons. A consistent weekly structure helps students understand course expectations, but each course may have it’s own unique design.
The following table compares the “big picture” design of two online undergraduate courses: Financial Accounting and Reporting and World History since 1945. The course components described in these two examples are not exhaustive, but they illustrate the variety possible in course design.
|Financial Accounting & Reporting||World History Since 1945|
|E-book Narrated lecture in each lesson Document screencasts||Content delivery||Texts (5); Video intro for sections; Film / video clips; Narrated lectures (a few); Document screencasts|
|Online homework system Interactive exercises Group project Weekly discussion question;||Student participation||Extensive threaded discussion Papers|
|M/C quizzes and exams Group project Homework & discussion participation||Assessment strategies||Discussion participation (40%) Papers|
|Video welcome to week Weekly intro email Synchronous online chat||Communication||Weekly email Extensive discussion feedback|
Both courses were designed using an instructional design model with attention to aligning course content, activities and assessment strategies with course objectives.
For content delivery, Financial Accounting uses an E-book text book and has a number of short, narrated PowerPoint lectures in each week. World History uses a number of texts, just like the on-ground version of the course. In this course the professor has videotaped introductory lectures for each of 3 segments of the course and also relies on digitized film and video for content delivery. Both courses include document “screencasts,” in which faculty describe documents that appear on the screen and significant passages are highlighted as they speak.
For student participation, in Financial Accounting, students need to work financial problems, and the course uses an online homework system developed by the textbook publisher that provides consistent practice and feedback. In contrast, the history course relies on extensive threaded discussion. Students are writing close to 500 words a week on the discussion board, and, accordingly, this becomes 40% of the course grade.
Financial Accounting depends more on online multiple-choice quizzes and exams for assessment, as is the case in on-ground delivery of this course. In addition to threaded discussions, World History relies on two paper submissions in lieu of exams.
To view a narrated screencast overview of Financial Accounting and Reporting, click here.