Your course should be completed ahead of its initial offering in order to test links, activities, and the overall functionality of the course. Give yourself enough time to review the course and to make changes from the testing. Testing not only helps to squash bugs, but it also helps you familiarize yourself with the completed course.
When you’re satisfied with how the site elements work, conduct a final walkthrough of your course to make sure it functions the way you envisioned. A strategy many instructors find helpful is to have an “extra set of eyes” take a look at their course. A colleague or a former student would be a great option for a final walkthrough.
Rubrics and Checklists
You can find course creation rubrics that guide you through a checklist to make sure your course is in alignment with student learning objectives. For example, Quality Matters is popular for use in higher education to review online classes and online course components. Their rubric provides a set of standards for course design, evaluation, and improvement.
Checking for accessibility of course content is also a recommended best practice. It’s possible that not all course content is accessible, including external resources like third-party websites. Best practices strongly recommend that you create an Equally Effective Alternate Access Plan (EEAAP) for students who will not be able to use, interact, or engage with the inaccessible resources due to a disability. An EEAAP ensures that you are able to quickly provide alternate accessible resources that meet the same objective/criteria when a student with a disability needs it. An EEAAP also allows you to confidently use the engaging, yet inaccessible, resource and be compliant at the same time. However, use EEAAPs sparingly, reserving it for those engaging, creative resource materials that happen to be inaccessible. For example, it would not be appropriate to have an EEAAP for an inaccessible document—it would be better to create one accessible document that everyone can use. To get you started, find an Accessibility Plan template on the Accessibility Resources at UNCG website.
If you aren’t using a predetermined rubric, here’s a checklist of what to look for:
- Can you easily see what text is a link?
Are the webpages active?
- Does the link open properly (in a new window, in the same window, etc.)?
- Are the videos ADA compliant (captioned)?
- If hosted on an external site, are the videos still available?
- Check for spelling, grammar, etc.
- Is each page aligned correctly?
- Are all navigation elements accurate?
- Are there links to resources like tech support, supplemental readings, etc.?
- Is the syllabus updated and accurate?
- Does the syllabus clearly state required technology and equipment expectations for students?
Create a course tutorial for your students as a way to encourage best user practices, address any tricky course navigation or functionality issues students may encounter, and to guide students through how they will interact with your course components.
A popular strategy is to record a video in which you narrate screenshots of the course to guide students through navigating each page element. An alternative is to create a step-by-step walkthrough of key course elements using a static presentation mode such as Google Slides.
Make sure your course tutorial, whatever format you choose, is accessible to users who may experience different course interactions, such as users relying on screen readers or keyboard navigation.
Once you’ve completed your final walkthrough and received feedback from others, make adjustments as needed. Just remember that an online course is an ongoing, “living” site. You can build in extensive opportunities to continually evaluate the course as it’s delivered (we’ll explore this in a later module).
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