Perfecting Online Education

By Dale Hale

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“Perfect!” When you hear someone say that word, you probably think of a rating, like an “A” or 100%. If a student gets a perfect score, that means everything is correct. A product is said to be perfect when there is no further improvement that can be made.

As well, the word can imply either absolute or relative excellence. In absolute perfection, we mean that there is nothing that we can compare it to that is better. It is the absolute best it can be. It’s perfect. In relative excellence, we mean that something may be better, but in this set, this one is the best. It’s perfect.

Bear with me a little, because I’m going to get biblical. There is another definition of perfect that we often lose today. It’s the idea of complete. In James 1, James says that we are to be joyful when we encounter trouble, because it helps make us perfect. I don’t know about you (although, my guess is that we all suffer from the same malady), but when I look in the mirror, I see plenty of imperfections that will never be fixed. I look at my life and realize that I’m nowhere near perfection. But, that’s not what James is writing about. The actual word can be translated to mean “complete”, perfect, in that it is finished. The job is done. It is complete because there are no more pieces to assemble. It’s perfect.

When I was a kid, my brothers and I would build models – cars, planes, boats, etc. My goal was always to hurry up and get this put together so I could play with it. I followed the directions, generally glued together the pieces that were meant to go together, but without the finesse needed to make something look really good. My brother, on the other hand, would research the model, check out books from the library and look for color schemes, and then, paint, glue, and work tirelessly on a model to make it look as close to the real thing. Of course, the end result was a beautiful work of “art” that was meant to be viewed and not played with. Both were complete. Both were functional. But, it didn’t take a real critic to see the difference.

What does perfection look like in an online course? Well, I think we could apply a semblance of these definitions. First, a perfect online course is one that is complete. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It connects the dots between the Student Learning Outcomes and the assignments. It allows students to engage with the course content. Through this connection, students gain an understanding of the course that they did not possess prior to the course. It’s perfect. It’s complete.

Second, while there is always room for improvement, the intent is to create a course that is more than functional. It pulls the student in and engages them in a way that encourages learning. It is perfect in that it goes beyond the point of content delivery. It engages the students beautifully, perfectly. In a course like this, the course developer takes the opportunity to create engaging and inviting content and activities. That’s relative perfection. That’s perfect.

What we are not concerned about is absolute perfection. A course developed is never truly done. There are always things that can be improved upon. But, we don’t want our faculty to get so hung up on that level of perfection that they refuse to participate. You know what I’m talking about. Those thoughts that occur, like, “I know I can’t teach online because I don’t know how to do ____” or “I can’t teach online because I’m not technical enough” or some other thought. That’s not the kind of perfection online education requires. Instead, we want people to teach online who are willing to say they don’t know but are willing and enthusiastic to learn how.

Now, that’s perfect!

To help you in your quest for perfection, we have created several learning opportunities. First, we can help you learn how to use Canvas. From setting up your gradebook and entering grades, to taking attendance and uploading documents, we are prepared to help.

Second, we offer a short, four-week course for those who want to learn the basics of teaching online. Called Online Faculty Training (OFT), this course teaches what it means to be a human and a faculty person in a digital environment. The next course begins in March. Click here to register.

Finally, we have a course called Online Course Design (OCD). This full semester course is designed to help you produce a course that will be engaging and inviting to students, as well as fun for you to teach. We want to encourage you to take advantage of these opportunities taught by caring and highly qualified people. We’ll announce the date for the next OCD class later this semester.

If you are interested in teaching an online course or want to make your traditional course a more hybrid course, contact our team! We can discuss strategies. Or, you can always start by taking an online course to get more comfortable – just click here to complete our fully online Canvas Basics course. You can start anytime!

As always, if there is anything we can do for you, please do not hesitate to ask. We’ll do our best to help you perfect the art of teaching online.

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Dale Hale is the Director of CBU’s Office of Online Learning & Educational Technology (OLET). He holds a PhD in Education Policy Studies and Evaluation from the University of Kentucky. Previously, Dale was the Director of Distributed Learning at Asbury Theological Seminary where he was in charge of all aspects of the institution’s distance education program. 

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