Unit 7- How will you continuously improve your online course and teaching?


  • The purpose of this unit is to help you to begin to realize how you will continuously improve your online course and teaching.



Online learning is always held to a higher standard than conventional teaching. If you are teaching online it is critical to be able to provide evidence that your outcomes are at least as successful as your classroom courses.

Online learning continues to improve. Change is constant. New tools and new approaches to teaching online are continuously being used to practice and improve.  It’s always possible to improve, and one of the best ways of doing that is through a systematic, intentional analysis of your online teaching.

Improvement indicators

Online learning is outcomes based. Do your students reach the same level of improvement, or better, with an online course as an equivalent face-to-face course? Here are two quantitative, and one qualitative, improvement indicators you can use.

  • Completion rates will be at least as good if not better for the online version
  • Grades or measures of learning will be at least as good if not better for the online version.
  • Improvement through change will lead to new, different and more relevant learning outcomes that are better served by online learning.

Ask questions

Look closely at factors that may have influenced students’ ability to improve. Some of the questions you may consider are:

  • What learning outcomes did most students struggle with?
  • Were the learning outcomes clear to students?
  • Were the content, activities and assessments well structured?
  • What topics generated good critical interaction and what didn’t?
  • How do I measure student work load?
  • How can I streamline the work for me as an instructor?
  • What could everyone do to better to manage the course workload without compromising quality?
  • How much did each student improve in the course?
  • How can you improve from student evaluations?
  • Self reflection questions.
    • Did your activities achieve the outcome you were expecting?
    • What you will change next time to improve?
    • Would you recommend your activities and assessments to a colleague?
    • What were technology problems and how can they be solved?
  • What feedback do your peers offer?
  • Student feedback questions.
    • Are students engaging effectively with your online activities or resources?
    • Do they have any trouble with the technology?
    • Do they feel more engaged?
  • Theory/Scholarship questions.
    • How does your experience compare with the reported findings in the literature?
    • Are the outcomes similar or very different from what others have reported? If your outcomes are different, it is not necessarily negative, as your context may be different.

Student Evaluations

Completion rates are often low for of the semester evaluations voluntarily completed by students Low response rates tend to be heavily biased towards successful students. It is the students who struggled or dropped out that you need to hear from. Small focus groups work better than student questionnaires using synchronous tools. Ask 7-8 specific students to participate in a one hour synchronous discussion around specific questions about the course.

At the end of a course, look at your student grades, and identify which students did well and which struggled. Go to the beginning of the course and track their online participation as far as possible. This qualitative approach will often suggest changes to the content or the way you interacted with students for the next version of the course.

Learning Analytics

Advances in online technologies have led to the collection of vast amounts of data pertaining to students’ use and interaction with technology. Much the same way that a gas company can track energy consumption in different cities to help improve their infrastructure – some learning technologies that we use capture data about students’ online activity. Exploring this data can help reveal whether the intended outcomes of the class design have been met or whether changes are required. Analyzing the online behavioral data from your students’ learning processes to inform your teaching is a form of learning analytics. The Society for Learning Analytics Research defines learning analytics as: “The measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, for purposes of understanding and optimizing learning and the environments in which it occurs”.

Many online technologies provide real-time analytics and visualizations that can help inform you of how your students are engaging with the online technologies. If your students are engaging with the technologies the way you imagined, then you have some indication that your redesigned class is leading to your intended outcome. If not, you have an opportunity to communicate with the students and obtain more feedback on why they are not using the online technology the way you had hoped. You may be able to modify your class design during the semester or you may need to wait until the next offering. Either way, objective real-time data of students’ actual use of the technology will help you gauge the impact of your redesigned class throughout the semester or term rather than waiting until the end when students complete class evaluation questionnaires.

Continuous improvement

At the end of the first online course evaluate it and make changes. Make this process a habit every time you finish teaching an online course. Your goal is to help students and yourself continuosly improve.

From Learning to Teach Online by Simon McIntyre, Dr Negin Mirriahi Tony Bates  Evaluate and innovate.Learning to Teach Online by Simon McIntyre, Dr Negin Mirriahi

Unit 6- Practice

Complete the following activity: Teaching Online Action Plan-Week 7

Unit 6- Self-Assessment & Badge

Complete the following self-assessment: