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Online Course Development: The Process and the People

Course development is a field where work-at-home positions are common.

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Education jobs
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Online course development is the process through which a distance learning product or course is created. Many different people have a hand in the process, and the end products of the course development process may differ significantly, depending on the:

  • type of institution (public or private school or nonprofit or for-profit company)
  • the education level (K-12, college or adult education)
  • the purpose of the course (test prep, corporate training, for-credit online college course, adult education, supplemental learning)
  • subject matter

Online courses might utilize web-based learning management systems (LMS), like Blackboard, or more general-use software like PowerPoint or audio and video players. Along the way, those involved in course development most likely would use MS Word or other word-processing systems. Because of this, much of the work can be done remotely, making course developer positions a likely fit for telecommuting. See more telecommuting jobs in education.

Among the people who work in course development would be:

Course Developer

There is no single definition for this position. Organizations use this title for differing positions. In some, course developer may be synonymous with instructional designer. However, it is often a job more focused on the content of the course than the educational design aspects of it. Course developers may interact with subject matter experts in choosing the resource materials and writing the text of the course.

Subject Matter Expert

The subject matter expert (SME) may actually write the course material or, more likely, may simply consult with the course developer and/or instructional designer. Typically, the SME is an expert in the subject matter of the course. In online course development, subject matter experts may be professors employed at the school which is developing the course or another institution. Typically these are part-time, contract positions.

Instructional Designer

Instructional designers develop the appearance, organization and functionality of learning systems using learning principles. They write learning objectives and may determine the scope of a project, create the layout of the instructional material and plan and create assessments.

Editor

After a course has been written and designed, many institutions will put it through an editorial process. Copy editors and line editors check the courses for grammatical errors, style and consistency. Editors also examine citations to be sure they adhere to style and format. These positions may be full-time at a large organization or part-time freelance jobs.

Online Faculty or Instructor

Most of the time online faculty are not part of the course development process. Online instructors are engaged to be the facilitators courses that have gone through the course development process described above.  However, some online colleges do pay a flat fee to online faculty members for  instructor-designed courses. In that case, the faculty member would act as all of the roles above, with perhaps the exception of the editor since an outside editor would likely be contracted to look over the course. See online faculty jobs.

Other Positions in Online Course Development

Programmers, media specialists, project managers, and web designers all play a role in the course development process. For more information, see this list of types of jobs in online education.
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