Choice Points in Online Courses

While “guesting” at a course, one of the students asked for more examples of how to build in choice in learning.  Here is a listing and description of nine choice points that you might consider using in your online courses.  

Course Beginnings

  1. Your getting acquainted posting can provide choices in what they share, including items as pictures, family, fun and work for building social presence.
  2. In the first week posting on learning outcomes, learners can share a personalized and customized learning goal for the course, building cognitive presence.
  3. In the first week, you can discuss the course structure, assignments and expectations and adjust as makes sense to ensure the structure aligns with their needs, expectations, and goals while meeting course goals.
  4. In all the discussion forums, you can provide choices in the questions to be addressed and/or in the types of analysis or response suggested.

Early middle of a course

  1. Provide choices of differentiated assignments and content resources based on personal learning goals and readiness. This means, for example, assigning core readings and resources to be studied by all and providing other readings and resources from which students can choose, depending on their personal course goals.
  2. Create opportunities and choices for peer interaction. Team assignments and peer revieware powerful community building and assessment tools, but they’re not for everyone. Be flexible on how each are used in your course.
  3. Build leadership opportunities. Not all learners need to be assessed in identical tasks. Some students may want to lead a seminar or discussion forum, others may prefer to demonstrate their learning through by writing a summary or conducting an interview.

Late middle of course

  1. Customize and personalize projects. Working adults in particular will proactively work on projects that have meaning for them. A project proposal process early in the course helps to ensure a good learning and interest fit. Alyson’s story is a great example of this.
  2. Offer peer review opportunities. Peer review of project proposals, projects-in-process, and finished projects helps build community, extend learning, and reduce grading burdens and unwelcome surprises.

Course Wrap-up

  1. Provide choices for project sharing. End-of-course wrap-ups often include project presentations. Encourage your learners to select from a range of project types, including podcasts, wikis, journals, interviews, and research or white papers.

Wrapping up Choice

The instructional benefits for student choice is that students can develop knowledge, skills and confidence by choosing resources and projects that support their personal goals, adding passion, energy and inspiration into their learning experiences.

In practical terms for online courses, it means designing options and choices within learning experiences, assignments, and special projects, yet always designing for alignment of the essential learning outcomes with learning activities and assessments that show evidence of learning.

Note:  This is an excerpt from a longer tip – eCoaching Tip 101 The Power of Choice to Energize Learning

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