Course Flow for Students
Most online courses built with Course Builder have a semi-synchronous flow. In conjunction with good material, this model can be effective at increasing student motivation, student retention, and student interactions. However, semi-synchronous flow is unfamiliar to many students. Students expect a course to be either completely asynchronous or completely synchronous.
- With a synchronous flow, students do all of their work at the same time everybody else is doing that work.
- With an asynchronous flow, students do everything at their own pace and have no deadlines to consider.
- With a semi-synchronous flow, students do some parts of the course
at their own pace and do other parts of the course on a fixed schedule.
- Instructors release course materials on a fixed schedule; for example, a new unit on each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of the course. Students can work on the units any time after their release. We’ve seen that students tend to work on units soon after receiving email about their release.
- Live events, such as live Q&A sessions with the instructors, happen at a fixed date and time. After the event, the instructors may post the video for students to watch at their own pace. Live events focus students around particular topics.
- Assessments are due by a fixed deadline. Submitting an assessment after the deadline affects a student’s final score. This is the part that confounds students. Because much of the course is at their own pace, having fixed deadlines can be confusing unless you are crystal clear in what you tell students.
Steps for Students
The flow for a student participating in the sample course on Course Builder is as follows (your course may have different pieces, but this should give you a general idea):
Register for the course.
Note that a student must have a Google account to register for the course on Course Builder.
- Take a pre-course assessment to see how much familiarity the student has with the course material at the outset.
- Get an email announcing availability of first unit.
- Work on the first unit (in any order):
- Watch the video, read the text version, or both for the first lesson in the first unit. Repeat watching and reading as many times as is useful.
- Complete the activity following that lesson. Repeat the activity as many times as is useful.
- Repeat steps 4 and 5 for several lessons and units.
- Get email about the live Q&A session and where to submit questions.
- Submit questions for the live question and answer session.
- Watch the live Q&A session with the instructors.
- Take the mid-course assessment.
- Get more emails.
- Watch more lessons and complete more activities.
- Submit questions for and watch the second live Q&A session.
- Take the final assessment.
- Fill out the post-course survey.
Throughout all of these steps, the student has opportunities to interact with other students and with the course instructors and teaching assistants. Moderated interactions are through email forums, Google+ pages, and regular email; students may set up their own unmoderated interactions by themselves.
To see what the course looks like to the student during some of these steps, see Student-Facing Site.