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How to turn your face-to-face class into an online course [Part 1]

This post has been updated on January 23 2020.

So you’ve decided to make the leap and convert your face-to-face (F2F) class into an online course. A daunting job, even for the most tech-literate and motivated of teachers. Breaking down this project into smaller steps, and following each one with patience and tenacity will yield a great e-learning course, which will stand you — and your students — in good stead for many semesters to come.

Naturally, e-learning guidance abounds on the Internet, so much so that it can become overwhelming at times to distill a solid process that will work for you. Today’s blog will take you through the first couple of steps in a process used by many e-learning professionals, who are using it to systematically convert F2F content into fully-functioning online courses. This is the first part in a three-part series about how to turn your face-to-face class into an online course.

Turning your F2F class into an online course: Preparatory steps

Be aware that our first three steps are exploratory and preparatory, and may also seem redundant, but it's important to realize that we are not transferring content online, we are redesigning your F2F content from the ground up to develop an online course that is in many respects an improvement on the F2F original — enhanced by technology and the ideals of self-directed study.

Step 1: Who is your audience?

After many years of teaching the same content to hundreds of students you may think this step is obvious and simple. It’s not. When developing an online course, it is essential that:

  • You understand the technological proficiency of your students;
  • What devices they have in order to access the course material;
  • What Internet speeds are available to your students;
  • How they prefer to consume technological content.

It would be instructive to start a F2F module in class where your students brainstorm — and to a certain degree even co-create — the new course’s outline, objectives and features. Not only will this be a stimulating exercise in itself, but it will yield important information about where your students “are at” in terms of their readiness, needs and appetite for online content.

Step 2: What do you want to achieve?

Again, a simple enough question that you think may be easy to answer, given the fact that you have offered the class for conceivably many years. However online courses offer the opportunity to re-asses your teaching goals for this particular class, and perhaps broaden them to include known outcomes of self-directed learning and the flipped classroom. These outcomes could include:

  • Improving engagement from students;
  • Creating personalized content;
  • Addressing any other classroom-based challenges you have found difficult to overcome;
  • Differing rates of learning between students;
  • Lack of time to explore certain sub-topics in-depth;
  • Time to reward and encourage self-directed learning among stronger students;
  • Lack of insight into what struggling students find challenging.

Of course it is also a good idea, especially after having offered a class for years, to review your own teaching goals in the class, and perhaps reframe your objectives, as well as refresh the content in light of the changing environment within which the subject exists.

Step 3: Choose an e-Learning course format

Those on the inside track of e-learning talk about Synchronous, Asynchronous and Blended course formats. Very fancy terms for really quite simple concepts. Let’s go through them:

  • Synchronous

    Literally means “at the same time” and is the course format most similar to real-time classrooms. It means all participants, including the teacher, are logged into the learning platform, and instruction and other interactions happen ”live”.

    This type of format would usually use technologies such as video conferencing, online forums, two-way live broadcasts, Internet telephony (i.e. Skype) and chat forums like Instant Messenger.

    The benefits of this format include its social nature, high degree of interactivity and the chance to address a student’s questions in real-time.

  • Asynchronous

    Meaning “not at the same time”, asynchronous formats allow students to log in to the course in their own time, and complete preset tasks and activities.

    The course is typically reinforced by a lot of resources that students can explore and read on their own, from their own devices. The format requires that individual learners interact directly with the content offering them greater flexibility and control over their time and pace of learning.

    It must be said that this format is more appropriate in a corporate, distance learning and mature student setting as it lacks the social and group dynamic that K-12 aged learners typically benefit from.

  • Blended

    Quite simply a blend of the synchronous and asynchronous formats, which results in a comfortable and logical combination of live teacher-led instruction and modules where students complete tasks, reading assignments and research on their own.

If you have taken the first two steps in this process carefully and with consideration, you will find arriving at an ideal format for your online course relatively easy. You will not only have a clear idea of the needs and limitations of your students, but you will also have clear goals for the class, and for your own personal teaching objectives.

Keep an eye on the K-20 Blog!

In Part Two of this series we will drill down to the “nitty gritty” of what instructional design models are available and appropriate, as well as explore the technologies available that best suit your new online course best. Then, in the third and final part we will map out the key online tools and mechanisms available to teachers and how best to utilize them.

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