It is difficult to see beyond your first course offering when building a new online course or moving an existing face-to-face course online. And if you want there to be a second offering of your course, you’ll want to focus your energies on making the first offering a success. But don’t ignore the fact that you will want to make revisions to the course based on your experience and feedback. Designing online courses always takes much longer than expected and planning for future revisions seems like something that can be dealt with…well, in the future. Here is a Top 5 list of things to consider while building your course to simplify revisions.
One Source Information – if you have important information like assignment directions, discussion group expectations or details about online quizzes, place those items in ONE place and simply link back to it from all of the different locations where students may need to access it. As you move through the course you can remind students [and the other members of your instructional team] where the information is located. This will help minimize confusion in the course and allow for easy updating…as updates will only need to be made in ONE location.
Another way to use this strategy is with the deliverable due dates in the course. Placing all of the due dates in ONE document/location will eliminate any conflicting information that could lead to a less than pleasant experience for the students…and the instructional team. Google Drive [documents] is a great solution.
Avoid Dates and Times – the goal here is to try to get as much mileage as possible out of your content. Avoid any mentions of dates, times, the weather, the season, the BIG championship game that just took place. Create a course schedule/calendar to refer students to. Consider a simple one-pager that allows for easy revisions. As you make revisions you need not worry about catching all of the places where dates were entered because that will all be contained in ONE location. Revisions can then be made lesson-by-lesson.
Compartmentalize Current Events – group discussions are usually a focal point of online courses and if current events are being discussed consider placing them in their own unique lesson rather than weaving them throughout the course. If your lectures are wrapped around a major current event like an election year you will want to create separate throw-away lectures that can be easily replaced after the event has taken place.
Place Content Into Modules – there are many reasons to place your content into smaller bite-size modules for the students. For example, taking that 30-minute lecture and creating six 5-minute lectures to help students maintain focus while watching and tracking their progress should they get interrupted. The benefit for faculty and the instructional team here is that this strategy makes locating areas to update much easier. Updating just one module might make more sense than trying to re-record an entire longer lecture.
Leverage Your Tools – many Learning Management Systems will have a feature that allows for a copy of your course to be moved from one session to the next. In those, cases you should consider creating a *master* copy of your course. A master copy of your course can be kept behind the scenes and never rolled out to students allowing you to constantly update as you move through your course. As the beginning of each session approaches you can copy out a fresh [pure] offering of your course and know that students will be getting the most up-to-date version. It takes discipline and organization to maintain a master shell with any success….and a talented instructional designer.
With every new semester or new session there will be some required work to get your online course ready to go again for the next wave of students. If you are working alone or with a team of other professionals using an external tool to help track the changes that should be considered will be the key to your success and the team you are working with. Consider a tool that allows for maximum collaboration.