After two semesters of teaching Accounting 233 “Auditing Theory” online, Zarb School of Business professor Dr. Rina Hirsch knows a few things about creating a successful online course.

Dr. Hirsch’s main goal when teaching an online course is to build a community around her curriculum. She wants to establish a learning community that fosters a strong online presence, not just for herself, but for her students as well. To introduce herself to her students, Dr. Hirsch created a lively course overview video where she used dynamic hand gestures and facial expressions to build a sense of excitement about the course materials. She also included some background information about her personal and professional experiences to help her students to connect with her. To establish a relationship with each one of her students and allow the students to get to know one another, Dr. Hirsch requires students to post to an “Introductions” Discussion Board Forum. Dr. Hirsch responds to each and every student’s introduction in an effort to foster good rapport with her students.

To build student presence in the course, Dr. Hirsch invites students to initiate discussions via VoiceThread. While one required VoiceThread assignment has students engage in a discussion with one another about an ethical dilemma in auditing, the other VoiceThread assignments are offered as extra-credit, giving students the choice to further deepen their knowledge by discussing current events in the field of auditing. These VoiceThread-based discussions give the students the opportunity to interact and engage in deep conversations with both Dr. Hirsch and with their peers.

To provide a sense of consistency in her online course, Dr. Hirsch uses a predictable format to deliver course content and activities. Each module includes the same pattern of information: a short video that introduces the students to the topic, a narrated slideshow, and an assessment that allows students to check their understanding of the content and practice skill-building. All of these are tied to a case study where students apply the theory learned to an experiential type of activity.

To help her students stay on track with the course materials, Dr. Hirsch created a course activities calendar that students see every time they enter the online course. This calendar sets the course’s learning expectations for each student and lets them know what they are expected to achieve each week.

Dr. Hirsch has a clear sense of her course learning objectives and what she wants her students to learn from the class. It is this focus that informs the choices she makes about how to present her course to the students. It is the little touches — her short, targeted video lectures and narrated slideshows with closed captioning or providing her students with the PowerPoints as an alternative means of learning — that make the online course appealing to her students.  Dr. Hirsch was happy about how her online course was ultimately designed, and so are her students.