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


We interviewed State College of Florida instructor, Cheri L. Kittrell, about best practices for planning your psychology course with Connect and your Quality in Online Learning Certification.

How would you recommend a new faculty member get started?

Is designing an online psychology course different than designing a traditional course? How do you design an online course to meet the highest standards using Connect? While faculty may not vary their content from section to section in a semester, the way we communicate that content could vary significantly from a digital (or online) course to a traditional (or face-to-face) class. New faculty who are developing an online class and are considering how to transfer their material from a traditional course may wish to employ “backward design.” In this type of course design, faculty begin with the end in mind. What skills or knowledge do you want your students to possess at the end of the class (or unit) and then think about the best methodology for achieving that knowledge—discussion? exam? hands-on learning? You’ll want to be certain you are aligning your objective to the task you want your students to achieve. For example, does a multiple-choice test really assess a learning objective that states: “Given any research study, evaluate the appropriateness of the conclusions reached based on the data presented?” If you’ve never heard of or considered using backward design, I recommend watching this video as a further introduction (Video credit goes to MaryAnne Nestor and Carl E. Nestor).

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

There are a variety of standards that faculty may wish to keep in mind while developing online courses. Your department, institution, and/or online learning department may all have standards for your course. Your course may be required to be a Quality Matters certified course. You may have requirements to follow from state or professional organizations. Your standards may vary based upon your accrediting bodies. Yet, most online quality standards tend to all revolve around the same major areas: course fundamentals, learning foundations, faculty engagement, and student engagement. Course fundamentals evaluate quality in course design, such as cohesive and learner-centric course content, accessibility, and continuous course improvement.  Learning foundations is dedicated to ensuring that key learning components are included in a course to create an effective learning environment, including learning outcomes, course activities, and assessments. Faculty engagement evaluates that faculty are proactively addressing problems as they occur, providing timely and encouraging feedback, and remaining involved with the learning process of students. Finally, student engagement assesses the amount of communication, discussion, and community-building opportunities that are present for students in a course. I highly recommend downloading a scorecard, like the Quality Course Teaching and Instructional Practice (QCTIP), to see a version of these kinds of standards to begin a personal review of your own course.

What specific Connect tools would you recommend using?

The “Filter Results” section, when setting up your assignments in Connect, can assist you in obtaining the best content for designing your course to the highest standards. You may need to find certain question formats for an assessment or you might be looking for a new activity type to replace a multiple-choice quiz, or you might wonder if there is higher or lower-level Bloom’s content to better reach the learning objective you are trying to present. Maybe you are trying to align your content to APA Outcomes for the purpose of reaching some standard supplied by your department or accrediting body. It is so simple to do all of this (and more) from this menu. In my own classes, I might have a learning objective such as, “Analyze real-world behavior to identify evidence of Bandura’s social learning theory.” This learning objective falls at a higher level on Bloom’s Taxonomy, and it would not be appropriate to use multiple-choice to assess this, as multiple-choice tests commonly fall at the Remember, Understand, and Apply levels of Bloom’s, but also because it is difficult to “analyze real-world behavior” through multiple-choice questions. I would look to a tool in Connect that specifically targets higher-level learning, such as Quest: Journey Through the Lifespan, which is available for all developmental psychology courses, to assess this type of learning objective. In Quest, I could have students engage in an activity such as having Abby, an 8-year-old girl who is at a carnival with her family, attempt a rock-climbing challenge. Students take on the persona of Abby and make choices and decisions appropriate for that of an 8-year-old and note the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional effect that they have on Abby. As students make decisions in this event in the game, they are afforded the opportunity to see how observational learning works and analyze why Abby was (or was not) successful in climbing the rock wall.