Know the Difference Between a Good Online Course and a Poor One

The 4 Culprits of Weak Online Courses: Why All Online Courses Are Not Created Equal

You deserve better. You pay big bucks to take an online course so why shouldn’t you expect quality? Having designed a very successful template for a provider of Additional Qualifications courses in Ontario – it’s time for you to be more discerning about where you take your AQ’s.

There is no shortage of teachers taking online courses and one can easily argue that the teaching profession has adopted the online format for continuing education at a respectable pace.  The online course however is another matter. Laborious content, multiple clicks, poor navigation, broken links and outdated information plague most online content out there. 

Now don’t get me wrong, the MOOCs are intensely groomed by their curators and I have nothing but positive reviews for most but when it comes to professional development provided by colleges and universities, I have seen little evidence of an online course format that has evolved with the times. Unfortunately you cannot climb a pay grid with a MOOC period.

Culprit #1 – PDF’s and Word Docs

If your online course content is based on PDF’s or Word docs then you’ve already paid too much.  The diversity of the web is lost in such format not because you cannot hyperlink and embed within such formats (which of course you can), but because the course writer’s imagination is still linked to the limits of document files instead of a dynamic engagement with everything the web can offer – from external links, to video conferencing, to embed codes, to interactive objects, to sounds, to engaging discussion boards, to blogs and even simply making the course accessible to the blind/low vision or deaf and hard of hearing.

Culprit #2 – Too Much Navigation!

If your online course requires you to read content then navigate via the top menu to another area of the course to submit work or participate in a discussion, then precious time and mental energy is wasted on navigation. ALL LMS’s are capable of delivering every aspect of a course topic or unit on one simple page – with all links embedded within the content. 

Culprit #3 – Gangly Discussions

Whether you want to admit it or not, the elephant in the room is actually sitting on top of 537 unread discussion posts. You know it, I know it and the entire online world knows it – so why do we continue to produce forums where deep thoughts go to die? Fewer discussions that are more thought provoking and allow for meaningful feedback are crucial.

Culprit #4 – Instructor Non-Presence

As a professional learning community we should be well aware that online courses are not correspondence/distance learning courses. Instructor presence is the first differentiating feature for a well run and well written online course. The advent of online meeting software and recording software allow for both instructor presence and flexibility to provide anyone who misses out with some form of contact with the instructor. Online courses worth the money have constant instructor presence throughout with plenty of time built in for flexibility to meet.

Anthony Carabache is a course writer and instructor for the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association. He is a consultant for the OECTA PD Department for all online course material. OECTA PD has embraced the evolution of online courses, their delivery and quality of material to better the online experience for its registrants.