When the course learning outcomes and the content are clear, the Instructional designer must make several important decisions regarding:
- Mode of delivery: self-paced or instructor-led;
- Tools to support interactivity;
- Collaboration techniques to be implemented.
The above decisions will depend on target audience: its profile, digital literacy level, and status of technology, and it will affect the overall course design, delivery mode, and evaluation techniques.
When designing an online course, the combination of the following instructional methods is used:
In this post, we will analyze each of the above methods and provide recommendations how to use them to develop engaging and effective online courses. Additionally, the brief review of delivery modes and evaluation techniques will be provided.
Expositive methods are used when new content is delivered to learners, and it is expected that learners will absorb provided information. Practical implementation of expositive methods in an online course delivery includes presentations, case studies, examples, and demos.
Delivery formats for expositive methods include:
- Non-interactive elements such as online text and presentations;
- Interactive elements such as images, videos, animations;
- Short assessments which consist of few questions and learners’ reflections on their experiences.
Webinars and virtual classrooms belong to expositive methods; they are popular tools for synchronous learning. The instructor presents the content to learners who are connected to the platform at the same time. It allows learners to interact with the instructor, ask questions, and receive feedback using video conference, audio conference or chat tools.
Expositive methods support conceptual and factual knowledge acquisition and learners’ motivation. These methods represent passive learning approach since few practical activities are scheduled for learners, interactivity level is limited. In terms of development, the implementation of expositive methods in online courses does not require many resources and can be done quickly.
Application methods are used to reinforce active learning. It means that learners are gaining new knowledge by conducting different practical tasks and reflecting on their practical experiences – it is the implementation of learning-by-doing methodology in online courses. Simulations, practical tasks, role plays, project and research work are involved when the application methods are used in online course design. These courses support the high level of interactivity, communication, and collaboration.
When simulations or practical exercises are conducted, it is necessary to involve a course tutor to guide, support, and help learners, facilitate reflection, and provide immediate feedback.
Application methods are used in online courses which facilitate a deep understanding of complex problems and develop advanced skills. Very often, these methods are used for job-related training programs or courses for wide use of simulation and practical exercises help to develop skills which can be immediately transferred to the workplace. Regarding implementation of application methods in online course development, it requires substantial resources, and it takes a long time to develop simulations and interactive practical exercises
Collaborative methods reflect the social aspect of online learning. Its purpose is to engage learners in sharing knowledge and opinions and working on the course assignments in a collaborative way. These methods are very important since learners develop communication, negotiation, and teamwork skills.
Collaborative methods are based on teamwork, discussions, the collaboration between students and instructors – they all belong to the learning community. These methods emphasize the importance of communication and enhance learning through guided discussions, reflections, critical thinking, negotiations, problem-solving, and teamwork.
Collaboration methods contribute effectively to the development of transferable workplace skills of the 21st century.
Another method which is often used in online courses is peer reviews which offer learners to revise, analyze, and evaluate each other work – it is an excellent tool to facilitate learning and build communication and analytical skills.
Collaborative methods require the active involvement of the online course facilitator to help and guide students and provide immediate feedback on their activities. Collaborative methods are very effective in online train-the-trainer courses and programs.
Online course delivery format
The delivery format depends on several factors:
- Learners’ profiles;
- Technology; and
- Organizational requirements.
Learners’ profiles help to identify which delivery medium should be chosen for online learning, what technology platforms should be used for learning, collaboration and communication, and learners’ availability time.
Technology plays an important role in the successful delivery of the online content, it usually requires the proper setup of infrastructure and network connectivity. If online content is media-rich, checking the bandwidth might be useful before the delivery starts.
Online course delivery requires also some specialized software which needs to be installed prior the course – image processing, rich text editors, video and audio tools.
Organizational requirements and constraints refer to the available time and budget; these factors influence the choice of delivery formats. Practice shows that self-paced multimedia courses require much more time than preparing a virtual classroom.
The development of a complete self-paced course is justified when long-term training goals are set. Important to consider that self-paced courses based on interactive content are expensive to develop but cheap to deliver, while instructor-led courses are cheap to develop but expensive to deliver. In some cases, it is beneficial to combine different delivery formats to ensure the effectiveness of the learning process.
Online course evaluation
When planning the course evaluation, important to decide on the purpose of evaluation:
- Check the quality of the course to improve it before implementation;
- Measure the effectiveness of training and learning immediately after the course has been implemented;
- Evaluate the existing course if it is still valid or needs to be updated.
Another aspect of evaluation is learners’ progress which can be done using assessments build in the online content.
The optimal combination of e-learning strategies and delivery formats are essential factors for the success of online course. The instructional designer makes respective decisions based on learners profiles, technology infrastructure, and resource constraints.
Learning objectives can be achieved through online content which incorporates different media elements: text, graphics, animations, audio, photos, and videos. The online course evaluation strategy should be defined in the design phase.
Online course development is a complex process which requires the effective collaboration of professionals from different areas: subject-matter experts, instructional designers, media professionals, and system support team.