The online learning environment affords educators the unprecedented opportunity to reach students anytime and anywhere. It affords the learner the opportunity to take advantage of higher education due to convenience and accessibility. While this new landscape provides unlimited teaching and learning options, we need to be cognizant of the challenges that arise when designing and developing courses. Not everyone wants to participate in distance education; that includes instructors and learners. As we design courses, one issue we do need to consider is this; are we providing learners with comparable learning experiences regardless of the delivery method?
This design research looks at the issues concerning designing and developing courses for the online and on-ground learning environments in order to ensure that learning outcomes are met via the design process. The concern of equality in learning is at the heart of this design process. The process was applied to the concurrent design and development of an online and on ground course at various universities in India. Some years ago, a team faculty member was tasked with conducting a review of the six core courses in an MBA programs.
The online MBA course analyzed each of the required readings, course materials, assignments, and assessments to determine if the event could be used as it was designed for online learning environment or if it needed to be adapted. One example of this was the online discussion threads. The question arose of how to create a peer-interaction exchange so important I n the development of critical thinking skills. This element appeared to be missing in regular MBA courses. It was determined that the prompts for the online threaded discussions could be used as the prompts for the reflective journal assignments in the online MBA courses.
This meant that students were having comparable assignments and would be able to apply what they had learned in their readings. The missing learning element input and feedback in the mba courses was resolved. Challenges in designing effective courses include a lack of knowledge of the features and tools available in the online courses and a need for faculty to understand the role of student centered learning to increase student learning.
Shifting form traditional distance learning courses to online MBA courses requires a thoughtful consideration of how best use a learner- centered approach in the delivery of online instruction to optimize instructor-learner interaction. In general, navigating through course material that has not been carefully designed can be frustrating and challenging for students. For distance learning MBA, students-centeredness is the focus and is strongly associated with student satisfaction.