Essential Design Elements for Successful Online Courses

Powell, W.G.

2003, Journal of Geoscience Education, v. 51, p. 221-230


Over a 4-term period from Spring 2000 to Fall 2001 an introductory, non-majors geology course was offered online at Brooklyn College, and was the subject of a two-year case study of the experiences and attitudes of the enrolled students. Three major course design aspects appeared to be most important for developing a sense of comfort regardless of the specific content or delivery techniques: 1) familiarity with online learning; 2) navigation and link structure; and 3) communication. Iterative assessment and redevelopment of the course allowed for significant improvement in student comfort. Key points to consider when designing a web-based course include: 1) easing students into the new learning environment; 2) avoid complex networked navigation structures because simple, hierarchical navigation structures result in increased student comfort; 3) lead by example in email communication email often and reply in a timely fashion; 4) let the computer act as a tutor in the form of interactive quizzes and tutorials; 5) be precise in the wording of all communication and instructions