What Makes an Online Course “good”?

Online learning fills a vital role in the modern education landscape. The benefits include opportunities for adult learners, people in areas where access to traditional learning is limited or nonexistent, young women who live in areas where gender issues restrict access to education, and many more. While online learning opens the doors of education for numerous people, it does not guarantee that the course is a quality learning experience. Having completed my undergraduate degree online and reviewing courses in my job, I’ve observed how classes that incorporate certain elements are typically considered a better course than others.

Elements of a Good Online Course

  1. Clear Learning Goals and Objectives:
    • This is important for any class, but it’s especially important in a fully online atmosphere.
    • Provides answers to questions like;
      • What will I get out of the class?
      • Which skills will I need to develop to succeed?
      • How will this information help me in my educational journey, career, and personal life?
      • What should I expect from the content, activities, and assessments?
    • Helps to Organize the content
      • Lessons are grouped and linked to objectives
      • They can be presented in ‘chunks’ which Canvas calls Modules
      • Navigating the course is much easier
  2. Real-World Learning Activities
    • Gaining experience in a supportive environment is extremely beneficial. For example, an instructor incorporates a role-play scenario in a negotiation and conflict resolution course. Learning strategies and skills and having the opportunity to practice in a controlled, safe space is invaluable. As an adult learner, classes that used real-world, practical application activities stand out as the most valuable classes I’ve taken.
    • Strategies and tools included:
      • eLearning videos
      • Demonstrations
      • Group projects (PowerPoint, animated video, etc.)
      • Scenarios and case study discussions (Check out this interactive scenario example from an online customer service training module.)
      • Virtual discussion sessions
      • Hands-on demos
      • Simulations

Without online learning, I would not have the opportunity to further my education. I think that is one of the main reasons I am drawn to Instructional Design. I know, from personal experience, the difference that a well-designed course can make for a student.

The infographic above depicts some of the differences between online and traditional education.  Click on the image to make it bigger.

Image Source: University of LaVerne