As a member of Franklin University Learning Solutions, course design and delivery is an everyday occurrence for my team (http://www.franklin.edu/lp/LearningSolutions/).
Outside of the team, we rely heavily on our quality faculty to be content experts or subject matter experts (SMEs), and assign these content experts to a specific set of courses to work with our team. Designers working with faculty act more as a support than a consultant (Ko and Rossen, 2010). Courses themselves are provided a content expert, content editor, instructional designer, and library associate. Once a course is designed and delivered it is then given to a support team for re-evaluation and potential modifications based on feedback. In a sense, we’re an active conveyor belt for learning. We’ve managed to make design a process of quality thought and inspection, and quality review. All of this is completed in a short amount of time. Prior to the creation of our team, courses could take three to six months to be designed and delivered. We can now do this in a matter of three to six weeks.
Personnel-wise, the department is headed by a vice president (to ensure our needs and agendas are at all the right tables), directors of project management, training and implementation, interactive media, interactive design, design services, and production services. Each director has personnel including instructional designers, web developers, content editors, interactive design producers, specialists in interactive media and production, and an administrative support member to keep us all sane. If I do say so myself, we’re quite a team, and have a lot to be proud of.
What we are missing is the very thing that you, as a designer, are likely missing too. Time. Because we offer consulting for both LMS and course design, we’re heavily sought after by other institutes and nations. As soon as we complete a course, dozens more are requested. We will receive requests by institutes who have never ventured into online education, and wish us to build their courses, their LMS, and even do the strategic thinking and planning for them (we do not do this, our aim is to teach them to fish). It is a good problem to have I suppose, but it isn't sustainable in the long-term. The more requests are made, the greater pressure on time for current resources and personnel. In fact, the university recently purchased an entire building to fit us all in, as we were quickly bursting at our seams. One year later, we need more services, personnel, and room to grow, and more time to do it all in.
If you had to prioritize any of the elements of building an online classroom what would be at the top of your list, and why? For me, at the top of the list for prioritization when building an online course room, the process of dividing up and organizing materials and activities is very important (Ko and Rossen, 2010). Basing design, planning, and development upon one’s dividing and organization, this is the time that a course is successful, quality, or in need of some big affection. There has been an influx it seems of attempting to socialize students more in a social media blogging kind of nature than in a teamwork combined discussion or assignment nature. Having worked with multiple LMSs that have a sectioned off piece for blogging specifically, I’ve noticed they are rarely put to use. As such, I would eliminate the feature of an LMS and instead direct students to real social media sites such as Weebly, Twitter, or general text messaging. However, as Ko and Rossen (2010) suggest, “be aware that you will need to set rules for interacting with students in this way (p.156).” Communication wise, while I find Weebly, texting, and Twitter informational and fun for students, as an instructor I find that good ol’ timely emails to my students warrant the greatest results and contact.
Ko, S., & Rossen, S. (2010). Teaching online: A practical guide (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.