When we began talking with faculty members about the resources they were using to build their online courses, it seemed that they were divided into two camps. The first camp was overwhelmed by the idea of creating interactive, immersive content for their online courses. These faculty were not adopting or adapting any tools to help them build their courses. The second camp was equally overwhelmed, but for them, the sheer number of possible tools was the cause. They felt that there were so many possible tools (apps, software, websites) that they didn’t know where to begin. So they just didn’t. For both camps, the results were the same: faculty members turned to their tried-and-true methods of their brick-and-mortar classrooms. Lost in between these camps was the online student.
So, we began with a simple question: what do students want from an online learning experience? Online students want to ask us questions, engage us in scholarly debate, provide and present research, and demonstrate critical thinking and problem solving. They want direction and navigational instructions, so they can focus on the content of the course instead of its organization. They want opportunities for peer-to-peer and student-to-faculty interaction through discussion, assignments, and feedback. They want to know that even though they are sitting at desks perhaps hundreds of miles away from their faculty and peers that they are not alone—that they are indeed a part of an growing community of scholars. In short, they want a quality educational experience.
As we thought about how to bring this experience to the online student, we began discussing ways we can adapt, adopt, and yes improve, the methods we use in the brick-and-mortar classroom, since—whether we agree with it or not—what pedagogy development most faculty members receive is focused on those interactions.
What we needed was a mechanism that would allow us to pivot our classrooms towards the online student. (For some faculty members, that also meant pivoting their pedagogy from a teaching-centered approach to a learner-centered one where the focus was on the engagement of the content—and not content for content’s sake.) It would need to be based in pedagogy theory and best practices, but it would also need to provide faculty members with easy access to practical advice. It would need to give examples—not just options. It would need to give options—not just examples. It would need to walk a faculty member through the process of creating original, online content without being overly complicated or unnecessarily simplistic.
Enter the online lecture toolkit.
We created the online lecture toolkit with faculty, designers, and developers—like us—in mind. When we first started talking with faculty about online teaching, we looked for something like the online lecture toolkit and couldn’t find it in the open access world. So, we set about creating it. Our mission is to support all of our toolkit users with practical, informative resources and examples based in theory, research, and best practices, so that they can build the interactive, immersive online classes that provide that quality educational experiences for our online students.