January 15, 2021

Purdue Fort Wayne faculty remake courses for eight-week online delivery with help from Purdue Online

From the outset, Adolfo Coronado knew that remaking a 16-week information systems course to span just eight weeks, fully online, would involve changing how he approached the course.

What came next wasn’t quite as obvious.

The process of thinking through how to redesign his course for effective online delivery in eight weeks was so useful that he is now applying “the same recipe” to improve his other courses, even courses he isn’t converting, said Coronado, an associate professor, and coordinator of the information systems program at Purdue University Fort Wayne and the interim assistant dean of engineering, technology, and computer science.

Coronado and Farah Combs, who redesigned her 16-week international communications course, are two of the faculty members who have participated in an ongoing Purdue Fort Wayne program of remaking courses for online delivery in eight weeks.

“I had severe doubts. I was like, ‘I can’t teach all this in eight weeks,’“ said Combs, a senior lecturer, coordinator of the Arabic program at Purdue Fort Wayne and the director of the honors program. “It really changed my mind.”

The course remaking program has twin purposes. It serves Purdue Fort Wayne students who need the added flexibility of the compact online courses, for example, because of work or family commitments. It also makes the courses more attractive to learners in surrounding counties and states, expanding Purdue Fort Wayne’s reach.

Purdue Fort Wayne is focusing on its bachelor’s degrees in general studies and applied sciences in particular, said Angela Williams, director of online and credit programs.

The general studies offerings tend to be foundational courses almost any student may take, while the general studies degree tends to be attractive to adult learners. The applied sciences offerings tend toward 300 and 400 level courses that allow a student with two years in college to complete a bachelor’s degree. Purdue Fort Wayne is working with community colleges to create pathways for students to reach that destination, Williams said.

Purdue Fort Wayne has partnered on a contractual basis with Purdue Online to provide instructional designers who partner with Fort Wayne faculty in remaking their courses.

“I’ve had a lot of good feedback from faculty who have worked with them,” Williams said.

The idea of the project wasn’t just to compact the courses but to improve them in the process, a task in which the instructional designers from Purdue’s West Lafayette campus helped.

Coronado said the process he went through with Mel Edwards from the West Lafayette campus, who assisted him, was essential to redoing his course. Among other things, Edwards, a lead instructional designer for Purdue Online, helped him examine his course outcomes and adjust them to fit the course’s level better, and to better fit within the eight-week format.

“It allowed me to rethink how I teach the course online,” Coronado said.

A big task for both faculty members was reducing the length of their video lectures, in part to make them more readily consumable by students, while still covering necessary material. Coronado typically did hourlong videos before, Combs as much as 90 minutes. They reduced that to somewhere around 10-minute segments. They found that they could present the essentials in a series of more bite-sized videos and augment them in other ways, such as readings, online slideshows, discussion boards, and peer review exercises.

Coronado and Combs also worked with the instructional designers on giving their revamped courses a consistent look and feel in the Brightspace learning management system, adding useful elements such as a standard “getting started” module laying out how the course will proceed and what’s expected of students. They made sure the redesign adhered to accessibility standards as well.

Combs and Coronado cautioned that there’s plenty of work involved. But they said partnering with a course designer is a big help and, in the end, the effort is worth it.

“There definitely is a benefit to our students,” Combs said.

It also came in handy when COVID-19 happened, and everything had to go online. “That was the only course I didn’t have to worry about,” Combs said. “It was done.” She even found it fairly simple to fit the recrafted course into six weeks for the summer session.

Faculty and staff at Purdue Fort Wayne interested in making or remaking online courses can contact can contact online@pfw.edu. Faculty and campus units in the Purdue system interested in partnering with Purdue Online to launch online courses and programs can fill out the notice of intent or reach out directly to onlineNOI@purdue.edu.

Writer: Greg Kline, 765-426-8545, gkline@purdue.edu


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