A lot more goes into creating a strong online course than recording a lecture and posting it online. With educational theories and academic studies informing their decisions, teams of experts think through every minute of the online learning experience to ensure students learn and engage with the content as well as professors and classmates.
At Trevecca, that effort is led by LaMetrius Daniels, director of online learning, and her team in the Center for Innovative Instruction.
Daniels and her team work with instructors and program directors to build online classes from the ground up. They think through the goals of the course, the best ways to teach the material and the resources, techniques, devices and solutions that can be used to achieve those goals.
To learn more about this innovative approach to instruction and the thought behind it, we recently sat down with Daniels and Dr. Ricky Christman, associate vice president and dean of Trevecca’s School of Graduate and Continuing Studies, to find out more.
What goes in to creating a strong online course?
Daniels: We have a team, an instructional designer group, that works directly with the program director or content expert on the how they envision the class. They give us this global perspective of what they want, and we help them break it down into the details to meet those global initiatives and the things they want the students to learn to complete the course. We look at the technology that we have currently to provide a safe environment for the student, a way for us to make sure they have anytime-anywhere access, and also that we have what we need to meet the needs of a diverse group and a global community. We use the curriculum to make sure that we’re integrating faith and learning and providing a holistic approach to the learning experience.
Christman: The key to creating a strong online course begins with the excellent program directors we have here at Trevecca and their skill at selecting outstanding content experts. The expertise and experience that our content experts bring to curriculum development pave the way for an exceptional educational experience for our students. Trevecca students are being prepared by exceptional practitioners and academicians in their fields of study.
How do the tools and technology Trevecca uses for online courses help build community and interaction?
Christman: The tools and apps we are using in Trevecca’s online platform enable students to benefit from direct connections they make with our faculty. Students get much more than screen time; they are learning and being influenced through faculty-student interactions that enhance the learning experience.
How have you seen online education change over the years?
Daniels: Online is no longer the 45-65 generation. We now have students who are in their 20s. We have people who are digital natives and digital immigrants, so we have to create a curriculum that meets that whole population. It takes time for us to train and provide support for our faculty. … Also, our students use mobile devices to do a lot of their curriculum. We do try to align the content to ensure that it’s mobile friendly. Every software we purchase we try to ensure that it’s mobile-friendly or that there’s an app that our students could use.
Sometimes people think of online education as less than or not as good as face-to-face. How would you respond to that?
Christman: Thinking of online education as a lesser educational experience is a myth. Online learning continues to advance and provides students with the opportunity to learn from experts around the nation and the opportunity to interact with classmates in various locations and with different levels of experience. Additionally, students in an online classroom are given an equal voice through online written and video interactions.
How do you think online education will change in the future?
Daniels: Online [can trace its roots to] correspondence courses where they mail you an assignment, and you have to mail it back to the professor. They would give you two or three weeks to get it done. Then it moved from looking at a video and you mailed in your work. Then, it goes to a learning management system which allowed you to put your content in and post your assignment and the discussion. So, it was still very one-dimensional, and you don’t really connect or build a relationship. What I love now is that you can embed social media as part of a learning experience … Online education is going to move closer to 3-D format where you feel and can connect more with hypotheticals and have more of a practical experience in online learning.