Changing the Content, Not the Outcomes

“But I can’t possibly move my content and activities to an online environment!”

If you have been charged with teaching a course online that you already teach in the physical classroom, you may wonder how your on-ground instructional content, activities, and assessments can ever work in the virtual environment. The answer is: they might not! But that doesn’t mean you can’t facilitate an effective online course.

Teaching in the online classroom often requires a significant change in methods of instruction, activities, and assessments. Content does not need to be identical to what you provide on ground: as long as your students can meet the same course outcomes and unit objectives, your online course can be as good as (and possibly better than) that same course taught in the physical classroom. Yes, these modifications will require substantial thought and work on your part, so be prepared to work at it! In the long run, however, this work will make your online teaching more effective. In fact, the additional thought will likely help you improve your teaching, and students’ learning, in the physical classroom, too.

If you doubt that you can use different content to teach the same course on ground and online, consider this: do you possess the same educational background as your colleagues who are teaching the same courses? In most situations, the answer is no: you attended different universities, read different textbooks, and learned under different instructors. At some point, you all met your program’s objectives, even with these differences in instruction and resources, and you are now all qualified to teach the courses. In the same way, students who take a class in the physical classroom and students who take a class virtually can come away with the same knowledge and skills—if the courses are taught to meet the same objectives effectively.

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