As many in higher education learned these past couple of years, moving a master’s program online or designing the program to be in hybrid format can feel like a daunting task. But online learning is not a new concept, and there are tried processes to help shift to online classes without sacrificing a student’s learning experience. Let’s explore some aspects of an efficient and effective process for moving online.
Instructional design is essential to creating coursework for students of all different learning styles and circumstances. Since one of the benefits of an online program includes reaching students who may not otherwise be able to attend an in-person program, online learning needs to be extremely accessible. Accessibility includes traits and qualities of the system, like documents that can be read by screen readers or closed captions on videos, but also diversity of content to meet all students who come with their own learning styles and levels of knowledge.
It may be a little strange to think about how course design impacts students. However, students who cannot easily navigate the courses will not be inclined to persist and will not be good references for future students. Schools that design their courses to be easily consumable by students have better course evaluations, as their students are more likely to be happy with the program. Students today are used to the Facebook or Amazon experience. Students want to be able to access relevant information quickly and they want the course to be well organized and straightforward.
When working with CAP Law Online, an instructional designer is assigned to each faculty member. The instructional designer provides support during the course design process, from start to finish. Along with their individual instructional designer there is a professional team that will provide support as needed. It’s one-on-one, but not alone. We believe that our one-on-one relationship allows both the faculty member and the instructional designer to produce a better product.
At CAP Law online, we apply an integrated, team-based approach to helping schools reach these goals through their course design. A typical course design with us takes about 6-9 months to complete, but can be condensed into a timeframe as short as 3 months. Here is our basic Course Development Timeline:
|Planning – 2-4 weeks
• Subject Matter Expert (SME) shares course description, vision, and experience teaching online.
• Instructional Designer (ID) reviews process for developing online course and resources provided electronically: Faculty Subject Matter Expert (SME) Checklist, Writing Learning Objectives Guidelines, Syllabus Template, Course Map Template, Module Template, and ABA Sample Minute Breakdown.
• Existing materials and textbook (if applicable) are identified.
• Project timeline and due dates are determined.
|Analysis Meetings with Professor and ID
• Topical outline and measurable course outcomes and module objectives are documented on the Course Map.
• Review and discuss existing Syllabus (if taught before).
|Online Teaching and Technology Training
• Complete Faculty Orientation in Canvas and Zoom.
|Design – 2- 4 weeks
|Design Meetings with Professor and ID
• Articulate learning objectives for course and modules.
• Instructional strategy and delivery formats aligned to learning objectives.
• Assessments, assigned readings, and lecture content are documented on the Course Map, including estimated time-on-task.
|Syllabus, Schedule, and Reading Material
• Draft Syllabus and Course Schedule created.
• Readings are determined for each topic, and copyright issues are addressed.
|Development – 8 – 16 weeks
|Module Content Deliverables
Content deadlines will be scaffolded across a two-to-three-month timeframe, passing off approximately 25% of course content at each deadline. Faculty and Instructional Designer determine exact due dates.
• SME will complete Module Templates, including Overviews, Assessments, Discussions, Reading Assignments. ID will build out material in the LMS.
• SME will pass off Lecture content, including videos, transcripts, and supplemental material(s). ID will build out material in the LMS.
• Syllabus and Course Schedule may be continually modified during the Development phase.
|Welcome Module Content Deliverables
• Course Overview, Welcome Video, Course Description, Course Materials, and other guidelines are passed off.
|Review – 2 – 4 weeks
|Final Design Review
• ID Review: Completed to ensure instructional standards are met and all tools and content in LMS are functioning correctly.
• SME Review: Completed to ensure instructional standards are met, and content is accurate.
• Other Reviews: Additional reviews may be completed by CAP Law and/or University partners.
Project management is vital to success for the overall program as well as the individual courses. We will provide a road map for the completion of the program as well as for each course. We typically meet every two weeks to provide an update on the progress of the development. Every school has a different rhythm and culture. We are intentional about learning those aspects and adapting the plan to work for you.
Of course, one of the major areas of concern involved in making the switch to online or hybrid learning is viability. There are best practices, including a particular program structure, that help a program maximize its net revenue and meet financial goals.
Many programs build their courses to be taken in sequence as a “pre-requisite curriculum.” Students can only advance in the program by taking classes in a listed order, and higher-level courses have prerequisites.
Pre-requisite sequences differ from flat sequences. In a “flat curriculum” scenario, students can take courses at any time and in any order they decide. While a flat curriculum expands access and freedom for students, it can be difficult to manage higher-level courses that require some foundation for completion.
There is another option out there that allows the program to maximize its net revenue, a required element for the long-term viability of a program. We recommend a tiered approach to course offerings—a mix of the prerequisite and flat approaches—and we help schools build that approach into their program.
A tiered approach would generally start with the following assumptions:
Then, a given tier within the curriculum would look something like this:
Tier 1: Any student can take any of the courses within the tier at any time. We recommend having four of these courses, for example:
Fall incoming students will begin by taking Course 1 and 2. Then in the spring, those same students will take Course 3 and 4. Spring incoming students will begin by taking Course 3 and 4, then in the fall, take Course 1 and 2. Additional tiers would be created until the end of the program. This tiered model maximizes your enrollment in each course, while also increasing the amount of flexibility in enrollment and coursework for your students.
Two sets of tools are essential to online learning: the learning management system and live class systems. At CAP Law online, our team is familiar with a wide range of such tools. Our IDs will help you leverage these new online tools in the best way possible for your students and faculty.
You will need to use a learning management system to provide a great experience for your students and your faculty. Canvas, D2L (Brightspace), Moodle, and Blackboard are the four top higher education learning management systems (LMS). These systems allow students and faculty to experience one cohesive learning environment. The LMS is where you will house your documents and any recorded lectures as well as provide opportunities for interactions through discussion boards. The LMS is also where students will submit assignments for faculty to grade. Faculty can even communicate with students, maintain attendance, and grade assignments through these systems.
Several programs let faculty and students meet live via the internet. Zoom, Google Meet, and Teams are a few of the larger programs. These systems have the ability for you to see and hear many people at the same time. Each one has limitations, but most enable chatting with others, presenting slideshows, or having a whiteboard for teaching purposes. Leveraging these online live tools can be essential to providing a successful student experience. Even programs that are completely asynchronous should consider using one of these programs for one-on-one student advising and meetings.
The feasibility of a program is heavily impacted by meeting enrollment goals and attracting quality personnel. Where to spend money to get the most out of an investment is critical. Successful programs often monitor online advertising closely while employing staff dedicated to program enrollment.
In most cases, the amount you spend will be proportionate to the number of students that will enroll in your program. However, there will come a point where you will be “overspending” and begin to see diminishing returns on your investment. Digital spending can be complex and often elusive.
We recommend having a dedicated person to help monitor and determine where best to spend your digital advertising dollars.
Admissions can be a very reactive and timely endeavor. The first school to respond to a request for information often has the advantage over slower schools. Students want to know you are interested in them as much as they are interested in you. In today’s culture, response times are measured in hours, not days.
Staffing the program may seem obvious, but the point is an important one. Dedicated staff is often best. “Dedicated” can mean shared with another department, but clear time boundaries and schedules will need to be established.
Your admissions staff should be prepared to respond in the evenings and on weekends, primarily using texting or email as the way to communicate with the students. Keep in mind that students want the same experience they get with Amazon: quick, easy to understand, and with verifiable ratings.
If your university is looking for a well-rounded approach to moving your masters, legal, or other program online, CAP Law Online can help. We offer efficiency without sacrificing dedicated expertise and quality feedback on course design. For more helpful information, or to contact us about partnership opportunities please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.