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Assignments and activities in online courses?

I’m working on another syllabus at the moment, this time for an introductory course on the history of technology for undergraduate students. I’m not so concerned about the course literature this time, but since the course will be taught online, I’m wondering what experiences people have with designing such courses centered on student activities and active learning processes. I know that I do not want to simply record lectures and put them online. I plan to do short (10-minute) video introductions to each week’s theme The course will have about 30 students and will run over 9 weeks at “half speed” (it will be half the total course load for the students for these weeks). By default we have access to the university’s customized Sakai LMS installation – it’s quite minimalistic, and I’m not particularly impressed by it. I can ask for my own Moodle installation, which I’m tempted to try out, but the university does not offer support here, so I’d have to do all that myself.

The big challenge, as I see it, will be to design a set of activities that:

a) require and encourage the students to explore and learn the course literature
b) foster collaboration, interaction, and creativity in ways that I as instructor can observe and evaluate on an individual level
c) make sense to the students.

I would also like the activities to feel integrated – in other words, I do not want to randomly jump from one type of assignments to another without any idea of how they fit together. My current plan is to have the students work in groups to create a website based on a combination of a tiny bit of primary research (online sources) and secondary literature discussions. I’d need to break this down into smaller assignments, of course, but the goal would be for all the assignments to support this final project, as well as integrate the project with the course literature.

So – what are good examples of activities and assignments that works in an online course setting?


2 Comments

So, what do you think ?