News & Updates

Effective Online Courses

Online courses contain a variety of teaching tools. All are effective if they are used correctly but if they are not, they can hinder learning.

Online Discussions are a way to maintain instructor presence. Considerations for Online Discussions include identifying the correct number of discussions. Many instructors need to reduce the number of discussions to give students adequate time to reflect and respond with in depth responses. Instructors need to select good discussion topics that help accomplish the course objectives. Summaries of the discussions should be posted and acknowledgements should be sent to each student to provide a personal touch. Many instructors believe that online discussions are only for low enrollment classes. In large enrollment classes the instructor can divide the class into smaller groups and have several discussions happening. Students can be directed to summarize their group discussion and post their summary in a common discussion for the whole class. Instructors should utilize grading rubrics and provide examples of quality posts.

Feedback is necessary in any course. Instructors need to select the type and frequency of their feedback. Feedback needs to be timely to install positive learning. Feedback should start with a positive message about the students work before discussing areas that need improvement. A positive message provides encouragement and makes the student feel accomplishment. It is always important to include examples from the students’ work which will reinforce that the instructor has read the students’ work. The use of rubrics allows students to see how their work compares with the instructors’ expectations. Instructors can vary how feedback is delivered to the student from written comments to audio comments which give a sense of instructor presence and personal connection.

Synchronous communications components help create an online learning community. These components can also be a challenge if not used carefully. Students need to be aware of your synchronous communications requirements before they enroll in the class. Many online learners are working professionals who may not have the freedom to take time away from their day job to participate in a synchronous communication component. Students may also be concerned about the technology that may be required. Adding two or three synchronous communication sessions to your online course will allow you and your students to interact on key elements as you would in a traditional face-to-face class. Take advantage of technical support to ensure that your live sessions help promote learning in your class.

Professional Development Non-Credit Courses

The Brenton Center recently become approved to accept credit cards for professional development non-credit courses. If you have an interest in developing and offering professional development non-credit courses contact the Brenton Center for details.

Online Education Video

View the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Online Education video and learn what faculty, staff, and students have to say about their courses.

Iowa Distance Learning Association Innovators Award

Iowa State University College of Agriculture & Life Sciences Distance Education received the award in 2009.