Predesigning Instructor-Friendly Courses

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In a recent article for Inside Higher Ed, writer Mark Lieberman reports on common objections to predesigned online courses. Unreported is how many institutions have found ways to reap the rewards of predesigned online courses while reducing disadvantages. FIU Online boasts an effective process for developing predesigned online courses. Our process is proven to maximize both creativity and scalability, which addresses the concerns of detractors.

Departmental Courses

To share just one example, our design process includes periodical performance reviews for every Departmental Course (our preferred term, though also referred to by others as a master course). These reviews result in annual course redesigns led by a committee of relevant instructors. We make a point of specifically including their expertise in the ever-evolving template course. We do this to honor the academic freedom of our faculty, to encourage scholarly collaboration with instructional designers, and to nurture a consistent learning experience for students.  

At points, Lieberman’s article echoes complaints similar to those heard in the ongoing debates about eLearning at large. Perhaps you’ve accepted online learning by now.  But predesigned courses? That just goes too far. University of Arizona instructor Catrina Mitchum even worries predesigned courses can feel like a “correspondence course.” While we appreciate Mitchum’s frustration, this need not be the case. 

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Predesigned Courses Peer-to-Peer Collaboration

FIU Online cultivates a dynamic relationship between faculty and instructional designers. Mandated mid-semester check-ins, for instance, encourage faculty to leverage analytics during a live course to curate, create, and deploy their own remediations. We even include an editable module for instructors to deliver feedback, guidance, and interaction throughout the Departmental Course development process. 

With a healthy ethos of constant improvement, a sound development process for predesigned online courses can remove the burden of full-on course design from faculty while allowing for more personalized pedagogy and creativity. FIU Online urges collaboration and flexible course tools to strike that balance. Most importantly, such a process is an effective means of ensuring all students receive high quality, cost-effective, and pedagogically innovative online learning experiences. 

If you are interested in learning more about FIU Online’s Departmental Courses, reach out to your instructional designer.

Maikel Alendy is currently the Learning Design Innovation Manager with FIU Online. With degrees from the University of Florida and Florida International University in the fields of neuroscience, cultural anthropology, healthcare, and business; his main research interests and publications are in cardiovascular molecular biology, aging, social media, anthropology, and online pedagogy. Within FIU’s honors college Maikel teaches the fully-online course Digital Fairytale; merging social movements, disruptive technologies, and business trends with a dash of neuropsychology. He is also an instructor for the hybrid course Power of Play, in which students examine the importance of play throughout their lifetime and partner with Sweetwater Elementary to design games for K-5 students. Maikel is the Chief Design Officer for a digital consulting company based in Miami and serves on the board of VirtueCo, which provides art programs and resources for underserved youth in South Florida, the Caribbean, and Latin America.

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