Skip to main content

Design Your Online Majors Biology Course with Connect® Based on the Quality in Online Learning Certification

We interviewed Associate Professor of the University of Northern Colorado, Ginger Fisher, about planning your course with Connect.

How would you recommend a new faculty member get started?

“The best way to start any course would be to define the learning objectives of the overall course and then each individual unit. From here, you can then determine how you will help ensure students have the opportunity to reach that objective and finally, how you will assess each objective. In terms of using McGraw Hill Connect, you want to consider this as a tool to help you teach and assess to those objectives. I find the best way to use Connect is to create formative assessments to help prepare my students for class, use some of the active learning activities to help the students reach the course objectives, and then use a different assignment in Connect as a summative assessment. These tools can be used effectively in both a face-to-face and online setting.”

What are some of the standards you need to keep in mind?

“I find a few key standards to keep in mind when teaching online. These include organization, communication, engagement, accessibility, and continuous improvement. By starting with a clearly organized course, it is easier for both the instructor and the students to journey together through the course. Students will quickly become frustrated if the course items are difficult to find if expectations are unclear, and if their responsibilities are not well defined. Taking time to create a straightforward system of organization that can be easily understood will greatly reduce stress for all involved. The standards of communication and engagement complement one another. For an online course, consistent communication with students and a plan to keep them engaged is key. Online courses are not something you set up and then forget about. Students need feedback, suggestions, encouragement, and a clear reason to be engaged with the material. When designing an online course, it is critical to think about activities, assignments, and assessments that allow the students multiple ways to engage with the material and with the instructor. One other standard that instructors often forget is accessibility. This can be as simple as font size or captioning videos, or more complex ideas such as how the course works on different devices. Fortunately, the more complex tasks have already been done in Connect, so the instructor can focus on the less difficult ideas. The final standard to keep in mind when teaching online is you will need to plan for continuous improvement. Some things will work well the first time, while others will not. Ask for regular feedback from students and make changes accordingly.”

What specific Connect tools would you recommend using?

“There are quite a few tools I would recommend, but if I had to choose one type it would be the LearnSmart Prep assignments and the SmartBook assignments as formative assessments. These allow students to learn the course material and test their learning as they work through the assignments. These also use an adaptive learning system, so students who are struggling with concepts will have the opportunity to master the basic concepts before moving on to the more complex material that you present in your class. In addition, these assignments provide reports to both the students and the instructor so students can track their own progress, and the instructor can learn which concepts are most difficult for each student and for the entire class.”

How would you take our virtual labs and recommend deploying it online?

“I see many of the aspects of the Connect Virtual Labs as a pre-lab assignment – essentially formative assessment for a laboratory activity. Virtual Labs give students the opportunity to learn some of the introductory material and play around with the tools of lab in a low-stakes environment. It is much easier to understand the concepts when you are just thinking about the science and not worried about the lab skills. Once you understand the lab concepts, you can focus on the lab skills in the actual laboratory environment.”