Best practices for online course
design are similar to those in the face-to-face classroom. Building upon the Principles
of Online Learning, the goal for any course developer is to
create opportunities that not only provide students with access to course
materials but also foster interactions with both the content and other
students in ways that stimulate higher-order thinking processes.
Basic Principles for Course Design
- Learning is an active
process and takes place when students are engaged with the materials
in a meaningful way.
- Students have learning
style preference(s) – visual, auditory, kinesthetic – that impact
how they process information. Online materials and activities should
reflect a balance of different modalities to accommodate these styles.
- Students bring their own
experiences and background knowledge (schema) to the course. Course
activities should provide ways to activate students’ schema about a
topic and use that information to scaffold (build) upon their knowledge.
- Students learn best when
called upon to integrate course materials in a way that has real-world
Bloom’s Taxonomy is a
classification of learning which
is useful in understanding the different processes — cognitive, affective and
psycho-motor — that students employ to learn. Even though all skill sets are
important for online course development, the cognitive domain provides a
useful rubric for the fundamentals of course design.
The diagram represents a revised
model of Bloom’s Taxonomy where the point of the pyramid begins with the
lower-order skill, remembering. Higher-order skills are not listed in
a hierarchy but are rather seen as parallel cognitive processes.
In many traditional classrooms, for
example, students are often called upon to simply memorize facts and data and
recite them in some form such as objective (true-false, multiple-choice,
fill-in) tests. Such ‘lower-order’ skills can have a place in the classroom
but, if used in conjunction with ‘higher-order’ skills will provide greater
opportunities for learning than if used in isolation. An example of this would
be if a true-false ‘test’ is given at the beginning of a unit for students to
assess their knowledge of a new topic and their results then used as a prompt
for a goal-setting/reflection of what they would like to learn.
Although course design involves a
complex combination of pedagogical materials and activities, Bloom’s Taxonomy
provides a straightforward way to frame language for classroom activities. It
is important to keep in mind that even though the concepts are linear in the
taxonomy, there is often overlap between skills. An activity or project that
might be in the creating domain, for example, can also include skills
such as analyzing, applying and remembering.
The following chart describes each
skill in greater detail giving sample language that can be used can use to
scaffold and construct activities for the classroom, as well as examples of
student-centered activities that can be used in distance education.
SAMPLE LANGUAGE PROMPTS
information they have received.
list, define, describe, identify,
- Creating outlines/bulleted
- Brainstorming (using
mind-maps or other graphic organizers)
information and concepts.
explain, paraphrase, summarize,
interpret, give an example of
- Engaging in discussion, blog,
VoiceThread or wiki summaries of content
- Creating paraphrases or
abstracts based on content
- Creating and posting quiz
questions for other students
Students utilize new
apply, construct, predict, solve,
- Generating survey questions
- Asking interview or survey
- Creating projects (e.g.
marketing project, presentations)
- Creating a blog post/wiki
- Doing problem sets
Students break-down, examine
and infer meaning from new information.
examine, break down, identify, infer
- Creating Venn Diagrams
- Analyzing charts, graphs,
- Researching sources for term
- Commenting on discussion,
VoiceThread or blog posts
Students assess their
opinions of and reactions to content.
compare, evaluate, interpret,
defend, support, explain, justify
- Writing persuasive essays
- Creating critiques/critical
- Debating/discussing via
forums or chat
- Commenting on discussions,
VoiceThread or blog posts
- Completing self or peer
something new using fundamental principles from course materials.
combine, create, construct,
devise, design, compose, explain, compile
- Creating how-to manuals,
podcasts, webinars, collaborative wikis, multimedia presentations
- Doing simulations
- Designing a new approach to a
- Doing project-based tasks
(creating presentations, survey projects, portfolios, capstone projects)
"Shasta College Online Faculty Resources", is a derivative of "PCCOnline Faculty
Resources” by Pasadena City College Distance Education Program, used under
a CC by Katie Datko, Editor.