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By Richard Michael Kesner, Northeastern University, Boston, USA
2013 International Award for Excellence Winner
Many higher education organizations are interested in and indeed are being pressed to develop online educational offerings but lack a clear sense of how best to proceed with the multiple challenges of course design, program operations, student and faculty support, and the measurement of learning outcomes. At the same time, a few Universities offering Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are stealing the headlines. MOOCs may seem attractive and certainly are sensational, but they do not in and of themselves offer a practical foundation or business model for the provisioning of enhanced individualized learning experiences within a higher education setting.
As a more measured starting point, this article serves as a practicum for those who wish to develop viable and functional online course within their own institutions. The essay draws upon the well-established ground work of colleagues globally. However, much of what I have to say in my article comes from my own experiences as the developer of web-based learning applications since 1995 and as an instructor of online courses since 2004. In my course work, I have developed learning experiences for undergraduate, graduate, and non-traditional students.
The professional literature concerning online learning is somewhat fragmented, with authors focusing on a particular element of online learning rather than a holistic view of the entire process. “Building an Asynchronous Learning Experience” provides an integrative perspective even as it links to the more specialized work of its predecessors. This article offers an approach to online course design, development and delivery that is independent of subject matter or institutional context. It is also comprehensive, considering – albeit briefly – such topics as the use of forums, multimedia resources, online text books, and learning management platforms. In particular, I provide frameworks for course design and management, teacher/student interaction, and student assessment. Each of my recommendations has been tested any number of times in dozens of different courses, involving thousands of students over a ten-year period. Anyone considering online teaching will find value in this article as he/she prepares for such an assignment. Those already engaged in online education will hopefully find additional ways to improve their current practices.