Distance Learning | School of Professional Studies | Northwestern University

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How do I…?

Create an Online Course with SPS Distance Learning

Whether you are brand new to distance learning or a course design veteran, questions about your online course will still arise. There are so many facets that go into creating a quality, accessible, and engaging online course, and new tools and techniques are emerging all the time. It can be challenging to keep up! These guides are here to help. Each category will answer questions about major topics in online course design and will guide you to the tools and resources you need to offer your students an outstanding academic experience. So, ask yourself: “How do I…?”

Build a Quality Online Course?

Quality can be a difficult concept to define. By using the Quality Matters (QM) rubric, SPS Distance Learning operates from a set of researched, reviewed, and tested standards that aim towards high quality online education. This introduction to the eight standards will help orient you to the QM framework that will guide you throughout course development.

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Make a Course Accessible?

Accessibility is a key component of every piece of a course. All students, regardless of background or ability, should have equal access to education. These guides cover a wide variety of topics, from the importance of web accessibility to specific, technical steps that can be taken to improve the quality of your text, images, and media. Accessible design is good design for all students.

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Create Audio and Video?

Audio and video recordings are important components of an online course. They can be used to demonstrate complex processes, share a conversation between two experts in a field, or bring the instructor’s voice and face into the course. These guides explore the variety of technical tools available to create and share multimedia recordings, as well as some advice for how to get the most out of your audio and video.

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Use Course Reserves & Course Resources?

There is a wide variety of resources available for use in an online course. Textbooks, ebooks, journal articles, book chapters, videos, podcasts, interactive graphics, and so much more can all be used, and selecting the best ones can be daunting. These guides will help instructors navigate some of the trickier processes of finding resources for their online course.

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Include Graphics & Images?

Graphics and images are excellent ways to share information with students. But like all media, they need to be created, selected, and presented appropriately. These guides will help you understand the ins and outs of using images in your online course.
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Encourage Student Interaction?

Giving students a chance to interact with each other and the instructor is crucial to the success of any course, online or not. But online courses can face some unique challenges in facilitating that interaction, since the students cannot simply turn to the person in the desk beside them and begin chatting. These guides will share tips on how to increase student interactions, as well as delve into some of the tools available to facilitate conversation.

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Run a Web Conference?

While the online courses offered through the School of Professional studies are asynchronous, there are still many opportunities and options for synchronous communication. Optional weekly class meetings, virtual office hours, student group projects, and more are all opportunities for students and instructors to speak with each other live. These guides will explain some best practices for web conferencing, as well as compare the various tools available at Northwestern.

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