OUGEO Presence at Osaka JALT Back to School 2017

Back to School 2017

Despite the rapid growth of online teaching and learning at institutes of higher education worldwide, switching to online courses can pose a great challenge to those involved in creating and administering them. In our presentation at Osaka JALT Back to School 2017, Mehrasa and I tried to simplify, clarify, and exemplify the process of online course design.

We focused on practices that we found successful in designing online English courses based on the related literature and our hands-on experience as online instructional designers.

Under the project title of Osaka University Global English Online (OUGEO), we designed and developed, and are now implementing, a blended course of English for General Academic Purposes (EGAP) at Osaka University targeting second-year undergraduate students for a period of 15 weeks, of which 10 sessions are purely online and 5 sessions are face-to-face.

First, we reviewed popular instructional design models like ADDIE and SAM. We also discussed topics such as online syllabus, learning management systems, e-learning authoring tools, online visual design, e-assessment, and e-feedback. Finally, we introduced the most practical standards checklists for online course self-evaluation: The Standards Checklist by Marjorie Vai and Kristen Sosulski (2011) and Quality Matters Higher Education Course Design Rubric Standards, Fifth Edition (2014).

Slides: Online Course Design 101: All You Need to Know to Get Started

Buggy Blackboard


Osaka University has been using the Blackboard Learn™ platform since 2005, which is known as CLE (Collaboration and Learning Environment). I used to be a Moodler, and I personally prefer Moodle, because Blackboard often gets buggy, which makes the process of online course design extremely slow! That is why many universities are switching to Moodle such as Montana State University, California State University, and Long Beach (Blackboard Learn: Criticism).

Here is the list of major bugs I struggled with during the development phase of the online course, named Osaka University Global English Online (OUGEO):

  1. Formatting glitches (e.g., extra spaces were added erroneously to the text, font got changed after uploading)
  2. Unresponsiveness of Bb Student and Blackboard Mobile Learn apps (e.g., large images and some fonts were not shown properly on the apps)
  3. Errors in the process of making tests and assignments


Moreover, no spell/grammar checker is available on Blackboard. This can cause serious problems in the design, development, and delivery phases of an online course, especially an English course.

Does It Really Take Longer to Create an Online English Course?


Based on my personal experience, the answer is a big yes, especially if you are offering your English course at different levels. The reason is that you have to label a large number of folders for each week and level, and then you get easily confused about what to put where! It also takes longer to create your online course if the learning management system (LMS) that you are using is buggy, which makes the process of uploading painstakingly longer.

Designing an online course takes a substantial investment of time; therefore, time management is a critical component in creating an online course. That is why collaboration is the cornerstone of online course design, as many hands make the load light. Once everything is in place online, the rest of the work becomes just a little easier! 😉

Online Learning Readiness

Are You Ready

Before the start of an online course, an online needs and skills assessment survey (ONSAS), also known as e-readiness survey, should be completed by the prospective students to ensure that they are ready to take the online course, and decide whether learner training sessions are necessary or not.

My co-authors and I (2017) recently used an adapted version of the Technology Survey, developed by Winke and Goertler (2008) to assess Japanese learners’ perceived e-readiness for learning English online prior to implementing our prospective online EGAP (English for General Academic Purposes) course, titled Osaka University Global English Online (OUGEO).

Readiness for online learning can also be measured by SmarterMeasure (formerly READI) which is a web-based tool that assesses learners’ preparedness for succeeding in an online or blended course. You can explore it here, and then try to convince your institution to subscribe!

You can also explore “Student Readiness for Online Learning” bookmark collection on MERLOT.

Some Suggestions on Conducting a Needs Analysis for an Online English Course


Photo credit: https://community.articulate.com/articles/how-to-do-an-e-learning-needs-analysis

What teachers do online is actually similar to what they do “on the ground” (Ko & Rossen, 2010, p. 12). That is why the first and most important step for designing an effective online course is conducting a needs analysis.

Here is a to-do list for doing an English needs analysis, along with a few suggestions based on a needs analysis that I have done recently:

  1. Choose a needs analysis approach (e.g., Target Situation Analysis (TSA), Present Situation Analysis (PSA), Pedagogic Needs Analysis (PNA), Discourse Analysis, Genre Analysis)
  2. Choose a needs analysis method (e.g., questionnaire, interview, observation, diaries, journals, logs). Try to choose/design a short questionnaire or adapt long ones such as Gravatt, Richards, and Lewis (1997) to make the analysis process easier.
  1. Triangulate the data (i.e., collect data from more than one source using different methods).
  1. Read the whole recent book by Brown (2016), titled Introducing Needs Analysis and English for Specific Purposes, before starting your needs analysis (as suggested by Brown himself in the preface). This book is an up-to-date, step-by-step guide to doing the recursive, holistic process of needs analysis.


*Aloha, in this very context, means: I don’t live in Hawaii, and you might 😉

My Favorite Open Educational Resources (OER) for ELT


Photo credit: https://tips.uark.edu/oer-open-educational-resources/

Open Educational Resources (OER) have a central role to play in designing an online course.

Here are some of my favorite links of OER for English language teaching and learning.

Portals and other related links:

Check the following links to find more OER for ELT:

Three Practical Points on CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference)

English Profile

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR or CEF) is a guideline used to describe language ability on a scale of levels from A1 for beginners up to C2 for those who have mastered a language. CEFR can be used as a standard in the process of designing a language online course.

1. The English Vocabulary Profile (EVP) shows which words and phrases learners know at each level (i.e., from A1 to C2) of the CEFR. You can subscribe to the A1-C2 English Vocabulary Profile here, which is available for free for the time being.

Words are also listed according to their CEFR levels in Cambridge Learner’s Dictionary.

2. The English Grammar Profile (EGP) shows which grammatical forms and meanings learners know at each level (i.e., from A1 to C2) of the CEFR. The EGP is available here.

3. The following text inspectors can be used to check the difficulty of any text in terms of the CEFR levels.