Building a Course From the Beginning

The Institute for Clinical Research Education decided to offer an online certificate in clinical research, they needed a new course in Biostatistics that would work online and without the level of instructor involvement that a face-to-face or flipped course would. I worked with several subject matter experts to design this course. We were able to use many of the video lectures the flipped version of the course had created, but we still needed to address the interactivity and instructor access that comes with both classroom and flipped courses. I addressed these needs in four ways:

  1. Clarified learning objectives and assessments: The regular instructor involvement in the face-to-face and flipped versions of the biostatistics course allowed them to have a less rigorous set of learning objectives. The instructor could lecture and answer as many questions as students had until they seemed to understand the topic. Limiting instructor involvement meant clarifying exactly what objectives were necessary so that instruction could include those questions that come up naturally in face-to-face situations.
  2. Worked examples videos: These videos were designed to provide learners with step-by-step instruction and how to solve specific problems or perform specific calculations. These were not designed to be primary instruction, but to give a student a place to go when they were struggling with the details of a statistical test or needed help with a homework problem. These videos were performed by a statistician.
  3. Interactive problem sets: We also needed something to bridge the gap between the conceptual content of the video lectures and the practical content of the homework. The need for less instructor involvement meant creating a way for students to practice and get feedback on their work to address misconceptions without a live instructor.
  4. Redesigned lab instructions: Lab assignments had students work together in a computer lab to learn how to use software to manage data and perform statistical calculations. The instructions for each assignment didn’t need to be especially robust because students were working in teams and an instructor was present to help. The lab instructions needed to be much more explicit and systematic if students were to work through lab assignments on their own with a minimum of instructor involvement. I redesigned the lab assignments to lead students through every command and click necessary to use STATA to answer statistical problems and interpret statistical outcomes.