When I began designing the online college algebra class I taught this semester (which is the first lower-level math class to be put online at Texas State) I had a very clear picture of what I did NOT want to do. Which was brought into extra-sharp focus when the Pearson textbook representative tried to push me to use their “one-click” solution. (Incidentally, the new Pearson rep we have is a lot less prone to unintentional insults, so that’s nice.) I really don’t think that even the best online course can be as good as a small in-person course, but I set my goal to be as good as the large lecture-hall courses.
I decided that pencil-and-paper tests were important, both for academic honesty reasons, and because there are a few questions on every test where I feel that the process is way more important than getting the right answer, and I insist on grading student work for those questions. Because the main purpose of offering the online course was allowing students flexibility, it was important to allow them to take exams at other testing centers, but I also didn’t want anyone missing an exam because they have to make a choice of $30 for a test, versus not making rent that month, so I offered a free proctoring session on a Saturday for each test. Most people took it with me, but there were several people who took it at other testing centers, both at Texas State (or at our Round Rock campus, which is about an hour and a half away), and at places around the state, plus one student who was in California for an internship.
The grading scheme was 45% exams, 25% final exam, 15% homework (we used Pearson’s MyMathLab) and 15% Learning Activities. The number one change I’m going to make next time is spending a lot more energy on getting student buy-in for the learning activities.