Unit 2- How will you plan your online course?


The purpose of this unit is to help you to begin to realize how you will plan your online course.


Ready to plan your online course? While the basic principles of -planning your course by aligning content, activities and assessments to outcomes applies to online courses, technology adds an extra level of required skill. However, communicating online offers different opportunities for students to interact and learn in new ways from classroom learning.

Mindful planning is important to create learning experiences that are effective, engaging and aligned with the learning outcomes.

Essential questions to consider when planning your online class:

  • How will you focus on learning?
  • How will you create a natural critical learning environment?
  • How will you develop fairminded thinkers?
  • How will you align activities and assessments with learning outcomes?
  • How will you practice and improve using technology
  • How will you embrace learner differences?
  • How will you chunk your content?
  • How will you structure the online course?

How will you focus on learning?

  • How will the technology enhance learning (pedagogy)?
  • How can you change your classroom activities and assessments to work in an online context?
  • How will you create activities and assessments that are relevant to today’s students and will increase student engagement?
  • How will you help students who are unfamiliar with using technology?
  • How will you plan to use technology to help you reach your course outcomes?
  • How will the technology enhance the overall learning and teaching experience?

How will you create a natural critical learning environment?

According to Ken Bain, “natural” means answering questions and completing tasks that naturally matter most to learners interests. Learners make decisions, defend their choices, receive feedback, and try again when their answers are incomplete.“Critical” means thinking critically. Students learn to reason from evidence, examine the quality of their reasoning, make improvements, and ask probing and insightful questions. There are five essential elements that make up a natural critical learning environment.

  • A natural critical learning environment begins with an intriguing question or problem.
    • Successful questions can be highly provocative.
    • Ask questions.
    • Don’t give students answers.
  • Students are provided guidance to understand the significance of the question.
    • Present intellectual problems.
    • Integrate authentic activities with the course subjects.
    • Connect subject issues with learner interests.
  • Students are engaged in some critical thinking activities where they are encouraged to clarify, elaborate, question, compare, apply, evaluate, analyze, and synthesize.
  • Students develop their own points of view and support them with evidence.
  • Students seek improvement by asking questions like; “What’s the next question?” or “What can we ask now?”

How will you develop fairminded thinkers?

To think critically requires that we develop fairmindedness at the same time that we learn basic critical thinking skills and, thus, begin to “practice” fairmindedness in our thinking. If we do:

  • We avoid using our skills to gain advantage over others.
  • We treat all thinking by the same high standards.
  • We expect good reasoning from those who support us as well as those who oppose us.
  • We subject our own reasoning to the same criteria.
  • We apply to reasoning to which we are unsympathetic.
  • We question our own purposes, evidence, conclusions, implications, and point of view with the same vigor. We question those of others. 

How can you develop fairminded learners to see the actual strengths and weaknesses of any reasoning they assess.? How can you and your learners become this kind of thinker?

Simple explanation of critical thinking

How will you align activities and assessments with learning outcomes?

Alignment means that all aspects of your class – from learning outcomes, content, resources, activities and assessable projects – are all directly related to each other, and support a system of learning that helps learners improve.

How will you practice and improve using technology

Practice using technology, and communication tools to improve. It is often assumed that students are familiar with using technology in their learning. However, many students have minimal experience using technology to learn. It is important to provide self training for your students and for you to practice using these technologies. As a teacher, it is important for you to:

  • Explain why you have introduced an online activity: At the beginning of the semester describe the purpose of the technology, your reasons for selecting it, how it will benefit their learning, and what the expected learning outcomes are from using it.
  • Provide briefing sessions and supporting material: Don’t assume that students are familiar with the technology. Provide training sessions at the start for students and any additional teachers, as well as supporting documentation that they can refer to when they need help.
  • Support students throughout the semester: Answer any technical questions promptly, introduce a Q&A thread online, provide a list of FAQ, and respond to any queries promptly to ensure that the technology does not hinder or frustrate the students’ learning.
  • Ask students to help one another: Where appropriate, allow students to respond to one another’s questions, and to share their technical expertise with the class. This can greatly cut down on the time a student has to wait to get help from their teacher.

How will you embrace learner differences?

We now know quite a lot about which kinds of student best learn online, and which find it difficult or a struggle. Here are some broad guidelines:

  • Lifelong learners wanting further qualifications or upgrading.
    • These are often working with families and really appreciate the flexibility of studying fully online. They often already have higher education qualifications such as a first degree, and therefore have learned how to study successfully.
  • Independent learners.
    • Online learning, particularly fully online, requires good self-discipline and good generic study skills. Independent learners can be found at any age, but it is a teachable skill, and we will discuss later in this post how to use online learning to move students from being dependent learners to independent learners.
  • Full-time students needing flexibility.
    • A surprisingly large proportion of online learners are full-time, campus based students.
  • Remote and isolated students.
    •  It is the flexibility rather than the distance that matters to these learners, and really remote and isolated students may not have good study skills or broadband access.

How will you chunk your content?

First, break down the content that must be delivered and decide how this can best be done online. DO NOT provide content as recorded lectures or PowerPoint slideshows.

Learning online is often done during shorter periods of time. Create units/modules for greater flexibility and manageable ‘chunks’ to digest.

Use authentic content, activities and assessments. Think through the content, activities and assessments to decide how best to present them online.

How will you structure the online course?

When you move a face-to-face course the structure of the weekly content will often be defined by the topics and outcomes for your course.. The main challenge will be creating authentic activities and assessments.

Structure the course as units/modules that follow the topics and outcomes. Also structure by weeks to create a natural, clear timetable.

Unit 2 – Practice

Complete the following practice: Teaching Online Action Plan-Unit 2

Unit 2- Self Assessment & Badge

Complete the following self assessment: