Pilot with Your Target Audience
The experience of teaching a course online is quite different from normal classroom teaching. We strongly encourage you to pilot your course by having people go through the entire course before you release it to actual students.
You may find, as we have, that a large percentage of your work comes after the first pilot, when you see how people actually interact with your material. Be sure to leave enough time to make the necessary changes you discover while piloting.
Some tips for piloting your course:
- Schedule at least one pilot before your class goes live.
- If you have teaching assistants for your course, consider using them as the students in a first pilot for the content.
- Have a second pilot; this time using use people who are in your real audience. They’ll have a very different experience from people who are more familiar with the material.
- Depending on the length of your course, a single pilot may run on one or more days. Check in with the pilot participants at the end of each day, so that the material from that day is fresh in the participants' minds.
- Pilot your course content, but also pilot other features of your course. For example, have your pilot participants use the forum you set up for the course. Try to test the forum at high volume to see how well it works. If you plan to do a Hangout On Air as part of the course, pilot that as well.
- If you expect that you will have international students, recruit at least one person outside of your own country to participate in the pilot. This person can provide a valuable perspective on the material that may be a surprise.
- Be ready to change things at any time in the process. This is, after all, the point of having a pilot. Make sure your schedule has enough time for these changes.
- Have a way to collect feedback during the pilot. Decide if you want pilot participants to see each other’s feedback.