Creating an online course, of any type or scope, is a tough job. In fact, it is something you may spend months working on—tweaking each and every aspect of your class to make sure that you create something that personally impacts each and every person who takes your online course. However, when you have that course completed and ready to go live, it’s easy to think that you are finished and move on with other projects. This can be a big mistake. It is vital that you conduct an online course evaluation. Mind you, this is not a one-time process. Rather you’ll need to do it multiple times.
So, how does evaluation of an online course, where participants are located around the world, work? While every institution may evaluate things a little differently, here are five basic steps in the process.
- Think from Learners’ Perspective
- Consider Applicability of the Ideas and Content
- Monitor Interaction in Class
- Review Number and Types of Queries from Learners
- Draft a Questionnaire to Evaluate the Course
Once you have followed these steps, you should have a better idea of
- where your current course stands
- what you need to do to bring your course up to date
- how to make it better applicable for online learners located around the world
1. Think from Your Students’ Perspective
Step one in the evaluation process is to look at your course from the perspective of learners. When you are the one who created the course it can be hard to do this—after all, you are very close to the end result. To do this properly may mean that you need to work your way through the course just like a learner will. When you think from their perspective, you will see little problems that may otherwise escape your notice. Ask yourself these questions. If you were a learner,
- would you find the course too fast-paced or too slow-moving?
- would you think that there was too much information with too little hands-on application of the data?
- what value would you actually get from the class?
This can be a good time to figure out whether your course is actually teaching or if it is simply guiding your students through the paces. Learners today have likely taken more than a couple of online classes in their past. They are familiar with the “standard” way of doing things. So, you can’t get away with just anything.
2. Consider Applicability of Ideas and Content
Chances are, your course is full of ideas and information. However, how applicable are those ideas and content to the learners who take the time to work their way through your class? How do you find it? Spend some time going through your course with a fine tooth comb. Take a look at each section of data and think hard on the ‘WHY’ behind the information. Ask:
- Why are you choosing this particular lesson?
- Why do you think your students need or want to know this information?
- If the information is presented simply as a filler, it can be skipped or adjusted.
Most likely, an online course is taken so that the student can learn valuable lessons that will help out in the workplace or help with future education. Make sure you are doing your job by creating content that can be applied in the workforce or in real life.
3. Monitor Interaction in Class
The “rote” learning can be tiresome and since there is no interaction involved, chances are the learners will simply forget the information presented to them as soon as tests are completed. If you want the best results for your learners, you should be incorporating interaction into your online courses. Check:
- Have you installed forums, chat rooms or other forms of communication?
- If your students are using these interactive features?
- How are they communicating or interacting in class?
Less or no interaction means your learners either don’t find the course interesting or do not know if such features exist, or perhaps no one wants to be the first one to get involved. Make sure you direct the activity a bit, especially in the first days of a new course. Once your students get started, they may find that these interactive features are actually one of the biggest benefits to an online course.
4. Review Number and Types of Queries from Students
As a course creator/instructor, you are likely inundated with questions and inquiries from the learners on a regular basis. That is to be expected. While you are answering those ever-important questions, make sure you are taking notes about them too!
- How many questions are you getting?
- Are you getting more or fewer questions than you did in the past?
- What types of questions are you receiving?
If you consistently get the same question or questions, that is a sign that there is something you need to look into or change in regard to your course. If you used to get a lot of questions, but now you only get a few, perhaps your course is getting stale. It could be time for you to refresh the information you are sharing.
The questions that are asked, not only to you, but in interactive forums and Q&A groups, are a “free” source of market research that is available to you. Make sure you take full advantage of these questions and use them as a way to change and adapt your course to fit the needs of your students today.
5. Draft a Questionnaire to Evaluate the Course
There is absolutely no reason why you can’t take a survey of your course participants and get some feedback from them about your course. After a learner has spent hours of time over the course of a few weeks or months learning about a subject with your online course, he or she hopes to leave the class with a working knowledge of the subject at hand. However, before the end of the class, there’s one thing left to do—ask a few online course evaluation questions.
Whether or not the learners are 100% satisfied with your session, they will likely be more than happy to share a bit of knowledge with you, the course creator. When the course is about to come to an end, send out a simple questionnaire. Depending on your class, the questionnaire may only have a few questions. What types of questions should you ask? This will vary from course to course and creator to creator, but by this point, you should have a good idea where your class succeeds and where it needs a bit more work.
Conclusion: Evaluating your online course isn’t too complicated. It just takes a little practice and effort. In fact, for many course creators, the process is an ongoing one—tweaks are being made all the time. This is one of the best ways to make sure you remain up to date and relevant. The last thing you want is to offer a class that is stale or ineffective! Not only does it reflect poorly on you for offering it, it can cause a big problem for those people who spend their time and money trying to learn a valuable skill from your outdated class.