Crafting an Online Course with Content Enhancement

The SIM Content Enhancement Routines were a vital part of my classroom for many years. Using them re-energized my teaching, helped me to refocus my students, and made collaboration with my co-teacher true synergy. When I took a job as an online teacher, I knew I no longer had the possibility to co-construct routines with my students. Initially, as I planned my courses, I began to ask myself questions: How am I going to give up SIM Content Enhancement in my teaching repertoire? How am I going to ensure my students are still understanding the essential questions and grasping the critical concepts? Will they be ready for an assessment without the self-test questions of the Unit Organizer? Will they see the big picture without the Course Organizer being reviewed every unit?

When I set out to build new or revamp courses online, I use many of the steps of the Course Organizer and the Unit Organizer to identify what information is needed for students to grasp the bigger picture. I found beauty in returning to Content Enhancement because it actually lays the groundwork for being an effective online teacher and course developer. While I don’t use the actual devices, all the parts are embedded into the course and units I create. The Content Enhancement planning and teaching routines had prepared me to create effective, fluid classes that prompted student growth of understanding in the online environment.

To plan an online course, I identify the units for the course. I then identify the critical concepts and decide which lessons they need to be infused into based on the skills and content in the Virginia standards. Next, I focus on what online skills and content-related tools I want to make routine for my students over a lesson, semester or course. The basic concepts of the Course Organizer align with Learning Management System (LMS) tools like discussion boards, journals, assignments, wikis, and reading modules. Even as LMS tools change and/or are updated, the Content Enhancement tools are universal, so my courses can withstand the constant change of the online environment.

When it is time to build modules with content, the organization of the Unit Organizer really helps me to form the layout and presentation of information. On the first slide I present students with a table of contents, on the second slide an overview statement of the module’s content, and the third slide lists focus questions. By structuring the module beginning much like the Unit Organizer, students learn which information to focus on during the module and see how it fits together.

A third Content Enhancement Routine I revamped for the online environment is the Framing Routine. For me, the most powerful part of the FRAME is the “So What” statement. For my online courses, all critical content activities have a “Your Opinion” paragraph similar to the purpose of the FRAME’s “So What” statement. I use the Framing Routine to teach students how to summarize what they learned and take a stand with historical evidence from the activity to support their opinion in a “Your Opinion” paragraph. Without SIM Content Enhancement Routines, engaging students in higher level thinking about critical content might not have been my goal for each assignment.

The bottom line is that SIM Content Enhancement Routine planning lays critical groundwork for anyone building content/courses whether online or in the classroom. As education expands to the online environment, it is important for more and more content developers to learn how to use the SIM Content Enhancement Routines.

~Catherine Pace
SIM Content Enhancement
Professional Developer
Midlothian, VA