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5 Often Overlooked Elements in Online Courses

Updated: May 14, 2023

Last year I was fortunate to be a part of a research group at a leading university. The main goal of the research was to develop criteria for assessing asynchronous online teaching. We analyzed course sites created by faculty who had 5 to 10 years’ experience in online teaching experience. So, from my experience at examining over 100 lessons and course sites, I have discovered some factors that I think contribute to effective and ineffective online teaching. Let me share with you my top 5 factors that are often overlooked in many online courses.


1. Engaging Videos: One of the most important factors in creating engaging online courses is incorporating engaging videos. Research shows that most online courses have only a few videos that lack engaging elements, such as interesting visuals, storytelling, and sound effects. To make videos more effective, they should be no longer than five minutes, recently produced, and engaging. At least one video per lesson is recommended to enhance the overall learning experience.

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2. Varied Question Types: Many instructors often stick to a few types of questions, such as multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank. However, research shows that courses should include a variety of question types, including visual questions and those that require higher-level thinking. This not only improves student engagement but also helps develop critical thinking skills.


3. Feedback from Students: Feedback from students is essential in creating effective online courses. However, some courses include a feedback section that rarely receives responses from students. To make feedback more effective, offer points for completing the feedback section and provide simple prompts. This makes it easier for students to complete and for instructors to review.


4. Visual Cues: Visual cues are design features that help convey meaning and guide learners through course materials. Examples include icons, colors, font, and layouts. When used consistently, visual cues can enhance the course's visual appeal and make it more engaging. Color-coding is one example of how visual cues can be used effectively.


5. Continuous Improvement: Finally, it is important to continuously evaluate and update online courses based on student feedback and changing needs. Some courses remain unchanged for years, leading to outdated material that doesn't take advantage of new technologies and teaching approaches. By continually improving courses, instructors can stay relevant and effective over time.


Check out this video showcasing key elements in effective online courses


Creating effective online courses requires a focus on engaging videos, varied question types, feedback from students, visual cues, and continuous improvement. Incorporating these tips can help create a more engaging and effective online learning experience.


To access additional teaching resources, visit my BLOG



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