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Getting Started with CATE
We try to provide information, tools, and assistance to make the process as easy as possible, but putting an entire class online can be a daunting prospect. It's not unusual for that processfrom learning about online teaching, to mastering the art of constructing online materials, to planning the structure of your online class, to writing your online lecture notes and creating your online tests, to integrating all the online components into a seamless whole, and to finally getting the class approved and underwayto involve six to twelve months of effort on your part.
There's no single correct path from beginning to end, just like there's no single correct way to structure and conduct an online class. However, our years of experience with online education have pointed to some preferred techniques for making the process faster and easier for both construction and maintenance.
Here's an outline of what we recommend.
Before you teach an online class, you will certainly want to take an online class so you'll have some experience of Web-based education from the students' perspective. You might want to enroll in an online course that helps train you to do online teaching. Alternatively, there are tons of terrific courses available on the Net from respected institutions all over the globe, and you can almost certainly find something in your area of interest. One of the best options is to take SRJC's CSKLS 334 "How to Take an Online Course."
The next step is to investigate the courseware options for creating and running your own online class. Will you be hacking your own HTML or using WebCT or working with CATE and our courseware or using something else altogether? There are advantages and disadvantages to each approach, but you'll need to decide what route to take.
Once you've learned enough about the tools to know which one you want to use, then you'll need to spend some time learning how to use the tool to build your online classes. At CATE, for example, we run at least one series of training workshops every semester. These are designed to prepare faculty for constructing everything they need for their online classes.
As you're mastering your courseware tools, you'll need to think seriously about the structure of your online class and exactly how you intend to conduct it. What elements will you utilize? Text? Images? Audio? Video? Self-help exercises? Online exams? Message lists? Chat? Gradebooks? You'll need to decide what elements you want to use and how you'll be able to construct and integrate those elements using your chosen courseware tools.
The next step is to actually compose your lecture notes and create your tests and shoot your video and build your webpages with all that material. As you're putting everything together, be sure to have your colleagues review it with you. It's a good idea to have a colleague from your department help review it for the educational content of the material, and also have an experienced online instructor look it over with an eye for how it will work on the Web. We can help you find an experienced online instructor to serve as mentor. And of course the CATE staff is always happy to review your online materials and make helpful suggestions.
Assuming you're using the CATE system, you can build an online class just about any way that makes sense for you, but there are some basic components and standard procedures that should be included.
Start with your personal homepage. This is the easiest module to learn, and it acquaints you with the basic techniques used in all the other modules. It also provides a great way for students to find out about you, your skills, and your classes.
Some things to remember about your personal homepage:
Be sure to activate it (using the "Make this homepage accessible to visitors" checkbox under "Basic Personal Data"). Until you activate it, no one can access your page. Activating it also automatically adds it to the CATE directory of homepages to make it easy for everyone to find you.
Every online class must have a course homepage. Course homepages are generated automatically by the system, and a single course homepage is sufficient to support an unlimited number of sections of that course and an unlimited number of instructors who are teaching those sections of that course. For example, the single English 1A course homepage can contain many, many links to sections of that course taught by different instructors.
Every online class should have its own section homepage. A section homepage is used to provide the basic information about the way you run the class: what textbook is used, what grading system, how late homework is handled, what tests and exams will be given, and so on.
Very importantly, your section homepage is also the fundamental building block for allowing your students to check into your class, select usernames and password, and provide email addresses so they can be added to your class Message List and access password-protected class webpages. You can't have a Message List or a Gradebook without a section homepage.
Some things to remember about section homepages:
Be sure to activate it (using the "Make this online course material accessible to visitors" checkbox under "Basic Information"). Until you activate it, no one can access the section homepage.
Also be sure to set the check-in parameters for the section in order to control the dates between which your students can check into class. These dates need to be adjusted every semester.
When you build and activate a section homepage, the system automatically places a link on your personal homepage leading to the appropriate course homepage and section homepage. At the same time, the system automatically places a link on the appropriate course homepage leading to the section homepage. This helps provide the basic connections allowing visitors to travel from your personal homepage to the homepages of courses you're teaching to your section homepages.
Finally, when you build and activate a section homepage, the system also automatically creates a "Details" link at the appropriate listing on the official SRJC online schedule of classes. This enables students to click over to your section homepage while perusing the schedule of classes.
Presentation pages and schedule page
The actual online content of your class should be built using the Presentation module. This allows you to construct free-form webpages containing text, images, links, animations, audio, video, tests and exercises, and other material. Typically, this is the information that takes the place of your classroom lectures. You have a great deal of freedom to construct these webpages just about any way you want.
You will also want a schedule page. Built with the Schedule module, this allows you to lay out a week-by-week or day-by-day or lesson-by-lesson view of what students will be doing throughout the class, along with links to the online components of the class.
Other pages and elements
At a slightly more advanced level, you will probably want to take advantage of class rosters, Message Lists, password zones, online tests and exercises, and online gradebooks. You can find more information about setting them up elsewhere on this page.
Assuming you're using our CATE system, you've had some training, and you already have a pretty good idea how the system works, here are some suggestions for your plan of attack for the construction and integration of your class webpages.
First, compose your text beforehand. You can put everything into a word processor (such as Microsoft Word), edit it, and spellcheck it until you're satisfied with everything. Then it will be ready to copy-and-paste into your webpages. (Remember, HTMLthe Hyper Text Markup Language of the Webwon't respect any text treatmentssuch as bold, italics, underlines, indents, etcin Word, so just use plain text when you write your material.) Composing all the text beforehand also allows you to plan more carefully about what text goes into which lesson, what links and images and exercises are required, and in what order you want to present the material in each lesson.
At a minimum, an online class includes a course homepage, a section homepage, online materials built with the Presentation module, and a schedule page. Make sure you know what material is appropriate for each of those pages, and how you will tie them all together with navigational elements.
Make sure you have your blueprints ready before you begin construction. You'll find the going much easier that way. So get out some paper and sketch the way you want your pages to look. What goes at the top of each page? What images will you include? What color scheme? How will you make your headings and text look consistent throughout the page and across all the pages? What goes at the bottom of each page? How many pages will your need? Almost without exception, you'll need only a single presentation and within that presentation you'll have several pages, usually one per week or one per lesson or one per chapter.
For the next step, make sure the system will support the visual approach you want. (For example, you'll soon learn that black text on a black background is possible, but not a good idea.) Practice with the Presentation module to ensure that your vision of page layout, design, and color is feasible. It usually works out best to build a few experimental pages to see how you can best organize and design your pages to match your blueprints, and then trash them and start all over with the real thing.
Once you have all your material ready to go, you know how you want to assemble everything, and you've confirmed how you're going to lay it out on the webpages, then it's just a matter of creating a presentation, adding separate pages as needed, and filling each page with the online lessons. You can simply type the material into the CATE system, or you can copy-and-paste from your word processing document. If you've chosen a simple design and you mostly rely on the default settings of your presentation, this can go very quickly. On the other hand, if you've chosen an intricate layout which requires many design elements, then it can take considerably longer.
Whatever you choose, you have the ability to control the way your materials are built and how they look.
If you're using a class Message List or password protection or a gradebook, then you need to spend some extra effort getting all those services integrated with your class webpages before activating the class. This can be a little tricky, so it's a good idea to follow this outline to ensure everything is in place. Note that further details can be found at the Help pages for the relevant modules.
Using either the Sections module or the Students module (both have buttons which will take you to exactly the same place), make sure your check-in parameters are configured so that students can check into class at the appropriate time. Normally this is set so that check-ins can commence a day or two before class begins, and then close a week or two afterwards. You should also enter/edit customized messages which will be presented to your students as they go through the check-in process.
Using the Password module, create a password zone for your class. This can be called anything you want, but usually it will be named after the class, such as the "English 1A Zone" or the "English Zone."
After you've created the zone, then specify which section(s) have access to it. Then, still using the Password module, select all the presentation pages and/or schedule pages which need to be password-protected within this zone.
After following those steps, students will only be able to visit webpages within a password-protected zone if they have checked into (and been accepted into) a section which has access to that zone.
Using the Communications module, create a Message List for the class and configure it as needed. Usually this means that messages sent to the list will be simultaneously delivered as email to all your students and archived on webpage within your class presentation. Still using the Communications module, specify that the students in your section will have rights to send messages to the list, and that students in your section will receive all the messages dispatched through the list as email.
Message Input page and Message Archive page
In order for the Message List to become fully functional, you must create a Message Input page and a Message Archive page. When doing so, be sure to designate both of those webpages as password-protected by the zone you've created for this class.
Tests and Exercises
You've probably already created tests and quizzes and exercises and exams for your class and placed them, or links to them, on your presentation pages. Now is a good time to review all those tests and ensure that they have been made suitably accessible. Remember, depending on how you've chosen to configure these, you might need to manually make them accessible at some point during the semester, or they might automatically open and close themselves at the appropriate dates. Also, you might need to adjust this accessibility every semester. (By the way, you should never unleash a quiz, test, or exam on your unsuspecting students until you have already tested it sufficiently to prove that you can score a zero (or the lowest possible score) and a hundred percent (or the highest possible score) so that you know it's working properly.)
Finally, you'll want to create an online gradebook to make it easy for you to keep track of the progress of your students. The gradebook can also be configured so that each student can see his or her grades throughout the semester. Note that the gradebook will automatically create its own password protection so that any given student will need to use his or her own username and password to view his or her own grades.
For more information about the optimal structure of a class website, see How to...Organize a Class Website.
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Last Modified: Tuesday, 12-Mar-2013 09:06:17 PDT
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