April 22, 2016

So, You Need to Move Your Course Online!

C O P H Instructor, Health Behavior and Health Education Kathleen Boyle, M E d, M S

Kathleen Boyle, MEd, MS

Every year the Online Learning Consortium surveys academic leaders across the United States. According to the Consortium’s 13th annual report, Online Report Card—Tracking Online Education in the United States (2015), 2.85 million students take all of their courses online; another 2.97 million take some courses online. Seventy-one percent of Chief Academic Officers report that online learning is critical to their long-term strategy; in contrast they report that only 28 percent of faculty accept the “value and legitimacy of online education.”

The College of Public Health at UAMS serves a large, rural state. Those living outside of the Little Rock metropolitan area often find it difficult to come to campus for classes. Moving courses online opens the programs up to many more residents of this state and beyond, allowing the College to serve the whole state and not just a small portion of it.

I was hired to help faculty move their courses online and am available to you to do so.

Why do faculty question the “value and legitimacy of online education”? The answers to that question vary but generally come down to a few concerns.

1. Students will be able to cheat if they are taking courses online. Beck (2014) found that faculty who have not taught online and students who have not taken an online course are more likely to hold the perception that students taking online courses cheat more often than students in face-to-face courses. However, research done by Watson and Sottile have shown that cheating is actually more widespread in face-to-face classes. Despite this finding, the perception is that more people cheat in online courses.

There are ways to combat cheating in the online environment. First, have a narrow window of time for the students to take the exam. Second, time the exam so students do not have time to look things up. Another strategy is to use projects, papers, and essay exams to evaluate students and have them submit their work to Turnitin.com, Safe Assign, or one of the other plagiarism detection sites.

Other ways to discourage students from cheating includes proctoring either on campus or through one of the online proctoring services, such as Proctor U. In reality, students wishing to cheat will find a way regardless of how the course is taught.

2. My course can’t be taught on line. As technology improves, and animations and selection of activities expand, courses that may not have worked online 10 years ago are now being taught that way. Laboratory courses are now routinely taught online in many schools.

Often we have a vision of what an online course looks like, but there is no one way to teach an online course. There can be synchronous video conferencing, working in groups online, and asynchronous discussions all in one course. Students can tape their final projects in Collaborate, and other students can watch and peer review or grade the project. Guest speakers can be brought in through video conferencing to discuss special topics with the students. All of these things can be recorded so students can review them later. The important part is planning the course ahead of time and working out how everything is going to work, from beginning to end, prior to the first time the course is taught. I am here to help with the planning and vision of how certain things can be taught online.

3. I don’t have time to move my course online. I can help reduce the time it will take to put your class online. I will do as much or as little as you want/need me to do. I only ask that you come to me at least a month before you want the course to go live online. Putting a course online is more than taping your lectures that you use in the classroom and putting them up in Blackboard. I am here to give you suggestions and to help you implement the ideas that we come up with together. It is a lot of team work but it can be done and it can be exciting, once you get going.

4. I don’t know anything about Blackboard. There is plenty of assistance for faculty as they begin to move their courses online. I am there to help, Office of Educational Development is there to help, and there are video tutorials by Blackboard and on Facebook that can help you get up to speed. I will also help the students learn to sign in to Blackboard, upload assignments and participate in discussions.