Online Course Layout And Organization

For those of us that have been working in online education for some time, we know that not all online students do well in their online courses. Statistics show us over and over that there is a much higher dropout rate than what is experienced in traditional face-to-face courses. While there are many different reasons for this, some of them are personal to the student…many reasons for dropping an online course are related to the level of support provided at an institutional level as well as a course level. Here are a few simple strategies that instructors can use to provide support to students in their online courses.

Feedback from students indicates that dropping out of an online course is often the result of feeling overwhelmed and frustrated by the amount of information that is presented and the way in which it is presented. This cognitive overload can be the experience if information is not easy to follow and organized in a logical manner. Unfortunately, in these cases the students may find they are spending too much time simply trying to figure how to navigate and locate the information they need to be successful. Course layout and organization can reduce this feeling of frustration and help students focus on the content and assessments…rather than navigating the site.

  • Use a simple and consistent layout and use the same layout for each lesson, module or unit etc. For example, an overview, readings, lecture, discussions, assignments and/or quizzes.
  • Do provide a good mix of written direction as well as audio/video directions. Some students will appreciate BOTH, while others may prefer just one style of delivery.
  • Always provide a quick course tour that shows students how to navigate the course including how to get help if need be. A simple 1 – 2 minute screencast will go a long way.
  • Always provide a quick lesson tour that provides details and expectations for that particular lesson. This is a great way to proactively address any questions that students might have. This is also a way to personalize the course that students will appreciate.
  • And when appropriate provide an assignment tour that provides details and expectations related to a specific and more involved assignment such as a signature assignment or a capstone project.