Creating an online course, of any type or scope, is a very hectic and time consuming 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 regularly conduct an online course evaluation.
So, how does evaluation of an online course, where participants are located around the world, work? While every educator may evaluate things a little differently, here are five important 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 Students
- Draft a Questionnaire to Evaluate the Course
Review each of these steps in detail, to help you conduct your evaluation of online course and coursework. Once you have completed this, you should have a better idea of where your current course stands and what you need to do to bring your course up to date and help make it better applicable for today’s online learners.
#1 Think from Learners’ Perspective
Step one in the evaluation process should be to look at your course from the perspective of your students. 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 these questions to the learner in you:
- 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.
#Tip: Are you offering them something different? Today’s online learners have likely taken more than a couple of online classes in their past. They are familiar with the “standard” way of doing things.
You may want to check out a few other quality online courses too, so you can compare and contrast your course with the other options out there. When you do that, you will have a better idea of what your students expect from your class too.
#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? While it can be a challenge, it is important that you look at the ideas and content in your course and find out how applicable they are to them.
Look at each section of your class. Are you teaching lessons for the sake of teaching, or are you teaching ideas that will be applicable to your students? 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. 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.
#Tip: An online course is not taken because learners enjoy the process. Most likely, an online course is taken so that they 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 further studies.
#3 Monitor Interactions in Class
You can evaluate your online course even when it’s running. In the early days of online education, most classes consisted of the learners reading a passage (or perhaps watching a video) and then answering a few questions about the information given. While this can be an important part of online learning, it is certainly not the only way of learning. This “rote” learning can be tiresome and since there is no interaction involved, chances are the participant will simply forget the information presented to them as soon as the test is complete.
If you want the best results for your students, you should be incorporating interaction into your online courses. Find:
- Have you installed forums, chat rooms or other forms of communication?
- If so, how to make learners participate in these interactive features?
- If they are engaging, monitor these interactions and find out how they are being used. Identify more ways to reach out and help foster further understanding.
Similarly, if your learners are not interacting with your course or with other course members, find out why not. It could be that they do not understand the features exist, or perhaps no one wants to be the first one to get involved.
#Tip: Make sure you direct the activity a bit, especially in the first days of a new course. Once they 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 your students 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! Find:
- 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 or your students are finding too many answers online. It could be time for you to refresh the information you are sharing.
#Tip: 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 student 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 student is 100% satisfied with your class, the participant will likely be more than happy to share a bit of knowledge with you, the course creator.
#Tip: 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. Just make sure you ask the important ones.
What types of questions should you ask?
Well, 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. By offering a questionnaire, you will learn exactly how good your online course is—and maybe even figure out how good it could be if you put in a little bit more work or make a few small changes.
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. Make sure you check out your course on a regular basis to make sure it is still getting the job done. 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.