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Northwest Missouri State University

Dawn Gilley

Dawn Gilley

Dr. Dawn Gilley, Assistant Professor
Humanities & Social Sciences Department
Online Course Design

Online courses require a robust course structure which will engage students in the content using creative course design.  Since online courses meet totally in a digital format, the design of the course must be such that students can easily navigate the course.  Clear directions and information are key to providing students with a positive online course experience.  During this past fall, Dr. Dawn Gilley applied for and was awarded a CITE Fellowship Grant for the 2014-15 year to design and develop the general education course, 26-102 Western Civilization I.  The development of general education courses is one of Northwest Online initiatives as the summer semester is one of the largest for enrollments.  Many Northwest students head home, but take Northwest with them via an online course.

Dr. Gilley’s online Western Civilization I course site was designed using the Quality Matters (QM) standards as a basis for the design.  She has incorporated a clear and concise design structure for the course navigation.  The main course page provides clear directions to student about how to get started in the course with a short welcome and directions where to begin. The course design includes a thorough course syllabus along with a separate link to a complete course schedule for students to follow.  Following the course schedule, a course tour is listed which includes a walk-through of the requirements for the course as well as the tools available for success in the course.  Additionally, the tour walks students through some of the nuances of the website by showing them how to navigate the links and embedded videos. It also provides some reminders about unit deadlines and other important items.

A beginning unit provides students with information about course tools needed to complete the course.  Each of the following units typically contains the following:

Links to content in the course are embedded within the unit schedule for quick access by students.  These links are also included below the unit button as well.  Content is presented in the form of audio PowerPoints.  Films on Demand digital educational videos (available through Owens Library) are also part of the content.  Graphics and pictures are included on the main page and on each of the unit pages.  These help students to become immersed in the content as they provide a visual representation of the content for each unit.

Formative review quizzes are included intermittently following the introduction of content.  Summative type assessments are added to the course sites in appropriate locations.  A unique approach to the course includes "A Day in the Life" essays.  Each student must write four 750-1000 word essays in which they take the perspective of a randomly chosen identity to answer a pre-determined question. Students explain how their particular identity experienced each time period. Thus, if a student is given the role of a “priest,” they will need to show what that priest might have experienced as normal life in each of the periods. New options for identities become available as time passes and societies became more complex. 

To ensure submission of original content, Turnitin software is incorporated into the lesson.  This allows faculty and students to see what areas of written papers may have been plagiarized.

CITE Fellowship grants are awarded on an annual basis at the end of the fall semester.  Faculty receiving these grants are provided with a stipend and are required to attend three training sessions in the spring semester.  Fully online programs take priority for funding.  The CITE Student Staff provide faculty assistance in the development of learning objects and other teaching resources.  Training sessions consist of QM training, Northwest Online course management system training, and course design along with instructional technology software training.

Dr. Gilley is an Assistant Professor in the Humanities & Social Sciences Department.  If you are interested in learning more about how Dr. Gilley worked through the process to design and develop her online course, contact her at or x-1839 or the CITE Office at and x-1532.