Right now I’m involved in teaching two courses, both online. Course A is a nine-week credit course and Course B is a five-week non-credit course. I’m teaching Course A for the first time and I’ve taught Course B many times.

Teaching Course A is a very different experience for me than teaching all the other courses I’ve taught online and I think there are three underlying reasons for this. The first is that the course has two texts the students must read, the second is that there is no assessed teamwork in the course, and the third reason for the difference is that the students are working on real projects that will be completed in their workplace during the course. Overall, Course A is so different to teach because a lot of the work the students are doing is actually offline from the course…where I can’t always see it happening.

Course A is still collaborative in that the students are posting drafts of their work to gather feedback from everyone else in the class before they make changes and submit their final assignments. Some discussions and commentary are happening in the room, so to speak, but much of the work is happening offline. It’s a very different course than Course B, which is full of discussion and activities almost always happening in plain sight, either in team forums, class forums or other types of online activities. With Course B, most of the course goings-on are within my view.

Don’t get me wrong, both courses work. They are just very different. And it’s something I wanted to highlight if you ever find yourself designing an online course. Think about where and how the students will do their work. Will it be with a team? With the class? On their own? With work colleagues or others who are outside of the course? A combo of some of the above? Think about if you will need “proof” of the work your students are doing to get to their end result or if seeing their end result is good enough. These are all considerations to be made based on what you want the students to have learned by the end of the course. And in what context you’re asking them to do their learning.

In Course A we’re asking students to do workplace-based assignments and the students need time to read, dream up an idea, and consult with people in their workplaces before they ask for feedback from the rest of the class. People’s workplaces are different and their plans are different and we don’t always understand each other’s contexts and cultures. In Course B the students’ activity very much happens inside the course, the work is all internally-facing to the course. The activities are the same for everyone, it’s just people’s contributions to the activities that are different, based on their experiences. Again, both ways are good. Just different.

As always, every time I teach (face to face or online) I have new insights. This time it’s about what we’ve asked students to do and where they do it, and also what that means for how I show up as their facilitator. And what evidence I may need (or not) of their learning. Guiding learning as a facilitator can be very contextual, and thinking about this feels like another step in my facilitator’s journey.