Section 2.1 Develop an Online Course Schedule
Create the Course Schedule Including Clear Deadlines.
There are a number of elements to consider when creating the course schedule. These include:
- Time Unit
- Beginning and Ending of Week
- Student Workload
- Student Enrollment
- Classroom Discussions (Asynchronous, Synchronous, or Both)
Time Unit: In an online course, students engage with the same course material, discussions, and activities within a week (or module); however, they complete assignments, activities, and contribute to the discussions at times that are most convenient for them (Elabum, McIntyre, & Smith, 2002, pp. 25-27):
- If you use a weekly time frame, make all assignments due by the end of the week.
- If you use modules, plan on due dates or weekly check-in points at least, so students are not left on their own for too long.
- Consider the pacing of the course and plan appropriately. Reading through many discussion postings and lessons can be time consuming for the online student.
NOTE: It is important to avoid assigning daily due dates because many online students will not be able to participate on a daily basis.
Beginning and Ending of Week: As an online instructor, you will need to set arbitrary deadlines. Consider setting the schedule for a “Tuesday to Monday” or “Wednesday to Tuesday” week. A Monday to Sunday schedule often requires you to work over the weekend answering student questions and posting announcements and activities for the following week. Also, many online students work during the week and prefer to complete school work on the weekends.
Student Workload: Design your course with the expectation your students will commit a minimum of five to seven hours and up to ten to fifteen hours per week engaging with course materials, discussions, activities, etc. (Elabum et al.). Five hours per week is the minimum amount of time in which students can still engage meaningfully with course material and fellow students (p. 27). Most online instructors do not include “technical time” which is the time it takes for students to log on, download attachments, post discussions and assignments, and technical problems. However, it is at your discretion.
Student Enrollment: As mentioned in section one, most online courses at ASU are limited to 15 to 20 students. Elbaum et al. advises, “if your course gets much larger than 28 students, consider breaking it into two separate sections that run simultaneously, or one following the other.” Consider the class size in advance because it will impact “group activities and class discussions” ( p. 27).
Classroom Discussions (Asynchronous, Synchronous, or Both): One of the great benefits of online learning is that learning and teaching can be done anywhere and anytime. “In asynchronous online learning, students can access the online materials at anytime, while synchronous online learning allows for real time interaction between students and the instructor” (Anderson, 2008, p. 5). Many online courses run asynchronously and offer the learner the ability to progress at learner’s pace. When considering whether or not to include synchronous discussions or chats in your online course, Elbaum et al. offers the following advantages and disadvantages (p. 29):
What About Synchronous Chats?
Create a Bulleted Outline
Once you have put thought into the overall course schedule, create a timeline driven bulleted outline. Create a bulleted outline in which each activity and each assessment in your face-to-face course (or a course you are developing from scratch) are noted with a bullet. Below is a sample schedule using the timeline with bulleted outline:
Sample Bulleted Outline
Week 2: Ethics and Civic Engagement
Week 3: Developing and Researching Your Topic
Creating the course schedule and bulleted outline may seem linear in these materials. It is an iterative process. The course schedule and bulleted outline provide the overarching structure for the online course. With a detailed schedule, you are ready to design an effective online syllabus.