When it comes to condensed-form course design put your energy in these areas first:
Begin with your course Objectives
Writing clear objectives following the model for SMART learning objectives will help you make an emphasize on the most important a teachable components you will be able to cover in the shortened term. Setting solid SMART learning objectives, combined with some of the strategies covered below may help you deliver a great student learning experience with depth across the shortened time frame.
SMART Learning Objectives decoded:
Simple – Use clear, direct language to tell the learner exactly what they should learn and/or what they should be able to do after the completing the learning activities. Don't be too vague, unclear, or use jargon they may have learned yet.
Measurable – Your assessments must align with the learning, be transparent to a point where the learning can be measured, observed, and recognized by both the learner and any other objective observer. The key here is the assessments cannot be too subjective or difficult to measure, a learner should be able to recognize when the have mastered the knowledge or skill.
Attainable (Achievable) – Your learning objective must be something your learners will be able to complete in the allotted time of a compressed course. Develop your curriculum and learning objectives with pre-existing knowledge in mind, try to meet your learners at a level where they will be adding to what they already know or further develop existing skills. While validating your objectives at this level, make sure your learning objective isn't too easy.
Relevant – In a compressed -term course pay particular attention to content relevance to the learner, don't teach material which isn't important to the objectives and/or won't be used or further applied in the course. When you set objectives where the learner can apply what they are learning in an authentic measurable way, the learner will more likely engage in and value the activities you are tasking them to complete.
Timely – Learn and apply or learn and implement should be one of the focuses when writing your objectives. Develop objectives the learner can use in a timely manner like the next day, following weeks, or an upcoming assignment. Providing the learner opportunities to apply what they are learning in a timely way can also support the transfer of knowledge or mastery of skills. More on developing SMART Learning Objectives from SNHU.
Rethink your Assessments
Research suggests brain function as related to learning requires both retention and recall. Retention occurs when the neural pathways are fully developed – this takes time as the brain moves items learned from working memory into long-term memory. Think about smaller assessments that can be scaffold, combined, and layered through the course progression allowing students to develop knowledge or skills working towards a specific end goal. The end goal could be a capstone styled presentation or cumulative project which demonstrates what they have learned. At each step allow time for the learner to make that knowledge transfer before you do an assessment and consider smaller formative assessments to check for learning. Additional Resource: Testing Whether Information is in Long-Term Storage - Dr. David Sousa
Balance the Workload
Don't overload the daily activities to a point that the learner does not have time retain and apply what they are learning. As mentioned above it takes time for the brain to take information from the working memory and transfer it into retained knowledge. In a condensed-format course your curriculum design should allow time for this transfer to happen through pacing and balancing the workload. Build in time for students to consume information, retain that information, and then apply it (assessment) to further develop that knowledge or skill. It is important to balance and pace out the learning activities and assessments to allow the brain of the learner to do its job.
Dr. David Sousa offers a layered approach to curriculum in this blog article – Three Steps to Layering the Curriculum
Provide Specific Supports
Teaching a fully online asynchronous course limits the opportunities for direct instructor – learner interactions, without these types of interaction designing a course with purposeful supports becomes more important. Creating additional opportunities and assess to you as the instructor can help fill the gaps in instructor – learner interactions. Consider scheduled open "virtual" office hours or help sessions using your web conferencing Zoom account. Additionally, providing supplemental instructional resources like topic specific "mini-lectures" where you cover difficult areas in the course content you have observed learners struggling in the past. Sourcing supplemental resources that you can offer students to take a deeper dive into the content can also be useful for students that benefit from differentiated instruction. When selecting outside supplemental resources, be careful to only select content that supports your course goals, outcomes, and learning objectives. Learn more on Using Supplemental Resources in the Online Classroom here from Wiley Education Services Learn Why Adding Supplemental Resources to Online Courses is a Great Idea from the Online Learning Consortium blog.
Have Solid Feedback Strategies
When teaching using the Canvas Learning Management System (LMS) instructors have several options available to provide timely authentic feedback including the SpeedGrader featured application. Developing a solid feedback strategy required that not only consider how you will provide feedback but to also consider how you will setup your assignments and assessments to best leverage the features of the LMS – especially when delivering a condensed-form course like a J-Term course. If you follow the recommendation to administer smaller scaffold assignments/assessments as outlined above, then you need to develop a strategy to provide timely feedback on those assignments or assessments.
Timely authentic feedback should be clear and concise, provide redirection when needed, encouragement and useful critique which supports learners in meeting the course goals, outcomes, and learning objectives. If your expectation from your students is that they login daily and engage in their learning, you need to meet them with feedback during the learning process and not at the end of the term when they cannot act on the feedback. For feedback to be a benefit to your learners in a condensed course it needs to be timely and frequent. Do you want to know more? CHeck out this article on Edutopia – Timely Feedback: Now or Never by John McCarthy