Academic journal article Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research

The Efficient Design of an Online Course: Principles of Economics

Academic journal article Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research

The Efficient Design of an Online Course: Principles of Economics

Article excerpt


Online education has become an increasingly popular delivery medium of course content for degree programs in higher education (Harasim, 1996; Phipps & Merisotis, 2000; National Center for Education Statistics, 2013; Allen & Seaman, 2014). Faculty members in traditional brick and mortar universities are finding that they have to reconfigure their face-to-face (F2F) course offerings into online format or design afresh new courses for online delivery. Many of these attempts use an ad hoc approach to online course planning. As noted by Carr-Chellman (2000), "The essence of an online course is the organization of learning activities that enable the student to reach certain learning outcomes." For an online course to be effective and to "provide significant learning experiences" (Fink, 2013), it needs to be designed systematically, mapping the course content to each Core Learning Outcome (CLO) in order to fulfill the overall Course Objective. This illustrates the concept of alignment, where critical course elements work together to ensure that students achieve the desired learning outcomes (Hirumi, 2014; Maryland Online, 2014).

Traditional classes have face-to-face (F2F) interaction with the instructor where much of the information is shared verbally. In the fully online format, however, all of the course delivery is done online. As a result, faculty members, when assigned online courses, are required to change the format of delivery of the course and make it fully online. The approach to course design or the reconfiguring of the course to meet online standards, in many cases, could benefit from improvements to make course planning more effective and efficient.


There are benefits to any well-designed course. For online courses in particular, a welldesigned course has significant benefits to instructors as well as students. According to Newberry & Logofatu (2008), instructors desire to maintain a certain level of autonomy over the development of their courses. They do not want to have a course created for them, but prefer to develop their own courses. However, a certain level of standardization across courses would help, and this would give instructors more time to devote to content development and course facilitation (p. 585). This helps instructors who teach the same or similar courses (e.g. Principles of Microeconomics and Principles of Macroeconomics) be able to share instructional resources, and to ensure a quality learning experience for students.

On the part of the students, they need to have a meaningful and memorable learning experience while achieving the desired learning outcomes. When courses are standardized, it decreases the amount of time and effort that students need to put in to learn the course structure and they have more time to spend learning the course material. This is consistent with findings about the importance of consistent course structure and navigation in an online environment (Ralston-Berg, P., Buckenmeyer, J., Barczk, C., & Hixon, E; 2015).

Neuhauser (2002) evaluated two courses with the same content. One was taught online and the other was taught F2F. Her results support prior research findings that there is no significant difference in the major metrics-test scores, assignments, participation grades, and final grades. With the right resources and a good plan, a very strong, effective course can be developed and implemented. Studies have shown that equivalent learning activities can be equally effective for online and F2F learners (Navarro & Shoemaker, 2000; Sitzmann, Kraiger, Stewart & Wisher, 2006; Lovern, 2010).

Johnson-Curiskis (2006) recommends the use of a course template for instructors to use to get started in planning and creating course materials. A template brings clarity and simplicity to the online course design process. In this paper, we outline how to use a course template to create an online course. …

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