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Instructional Design & Distance Ed Guidelines

Teaching an online course is not as simple as digitizing the materials you use in your oncampus course. Interaction and assessment are handled differently when members of the class are separated geographically. In addition, there are Distance Education Guidelines that do not apply in the traditional setting. Here are a few essentials to guide your online course design.

Instructor Contact & Online Classroom Community

Students who do not see their instructors and classmates can easily lose the sense of support and community of the classroom environment. Distance education courses are required to include "regular effective contact between instructor and students" (Distance Education Guidelines, section 55204). This sense of community can start the first time students login, and it will help students to feel supported, connected, and motivated in the online environment. Here are a few examples of how you can achieve this in your online course in Blackboard:

  • Post a captioned video introducing yourself to the class.
  • Create an ice breaker discussion forum in Blackboard that allows students to get to know each other.
  • Use the Early Warning System in Blackboard to quickly identify the students who are in jeopardy of failure.
  • Send out regular Blackboard announcements, and use Elluminate Live or telephone to meet with students who need assistance.

Student Authentication & Academic Integrity

Do you know your students? Student authentication is an important issue for distance education. As stated in Section 496 of the August 14, 2008, Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA):

Accrediting agencies must require institutions that offer DE to have processes to establish that the student who registers is the same student who participates in and completes the work and gets the academic credit.

In an online course, students must do more than just login in order to participate. (Department of Education, Calculated Last Day of Attendance) Students should be required to perform activities that demonstrate meaningful participation- post discussion threads, submit assignments, and take quizzes. The following are a few examples of how to implement student authentication strategies and academic integrity in your online course:

  • Use the plagiarism detection tool, Turnitin, inside Blackboard shell, and make the reports available to students
  • Require written work from students on a weekly basis (discussions, assignments, essays).
  • Have students critique each others' drafts of papers on the discussion forum or via email.
  • Use a variety of assessments, including authentic assessment methods, in your online course (for example, quizzes, projects, portfolios, group work)
  • Additional strategies are provided in "Best Practice Strategies to Promote Academic Integrity in Online Education", Version 2.0, June 2009.

Use Learning Outcomes to Organize the Course Content

Good instructional design is centered around the student learning outcomes (SLOs). These can be broken down into smaller chunks, or modules, and the supporting content can be made available to students, one module at a time, throughout the course. The content itself can consist of documents, images, captioned videos, web resources, anything that's within the SDCCD Copyright Guidelines. All content must be accessible to students with disabilities. There are several accessibility resources and tools available to faculty. Instructors who use publisher content packages need to ensure that the materials are accessible to students with disabilities. Publisher materials that must be purchased by students are also required to be available to students after the completion of the course. (California Education Code excerpt). Here are some practical suggestions for organizing your course content in Blackboard:

  • Create Blackboard learning modules based on the Recommended Components of a Learning Module document.
  • Use Adaptive Release to control the access of content by date, membership, or grade criteria in Blackboard.
  • Use the online2 media server to store your captioned videos and to optimize the performance of the video. Video files should not be uploaded to Blackboard.

Want More? Great! Consider Taking Our Training Course!

All of the above guidelines and suggestions are covered in the Online Faculty Training and Certification Program. Please consider enrolling in that training course for more examples and information about the topics introduced on this page.

Meet with an Instructional Designer

You can also schedule a one-to-one instructional design support appointment with an SDCCD Instructional Design Coordinator. We'd love to assist you with designing your online course! (View audio-visual tutorial on using online appointment calendar)


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