Building a Quality Online Course With Free Materials

Author Information
George Lorenzo
Rochester Institute of Technology
Institution(s) or Organization(s) Where EP Occurred: 
Rochester Institute of Technology
Effective Practice Abstract/Summary
Abstract/Summary of Effective Practice: 

The Rochester Institute of Technology's History Department cost effectively developed a fully online modern history course, and, in the process, created an online inventory of resources that are freely available online for other educators to utilize for the creation of web-enhanced, blended or fully online humanities and social science courses.

Description of the Effective Practice
Description of the Effective Practice: 

Cost effective aspects of online environment: The Rochester Institute of Technology's History Department developed and delivered a fully online version of "302 Modern Europe" by using already-produced, free, high-quality online instructional materials. In developing this online-learning course, a substantial collection of online resources for teaching Modern European History was created and made public. This collection is now freely available online at and can be utilized at no cost for adding web-based elements to on-campus courses, and for cost effectively creating blended or fully-online courses in European history and culture.

Supporting Information for this Effective Practice
Evidence of Effectiveness: 

How the Course was Taught: 302 Modern Europe consisted of nine thematic units. Each unit began with an instructor-developed study guide with compact overviews of given topics or periods. The overviews were edited versions of materials that were easily located online. Following the course introduction, learning objectives for each unit were listed followed by common assigned readings and carefully previewed websites from which students could select additional materials. Except for short common readings from a required text book, all the course readings and visual source elements were located online. Except for the first and last weeks of the course, students were required to either participate in a group discussion or write a short essay based on their reading and exploration of online materials. In addition, there were three quizzes and a final exam. Overall Evaluation: The course began with 36 registered students and ended with 33. A majority, 24 of the participants, were older non-traditional students taking courses on a part-time basis. Ten students were in locations outside the Rochester area, including Korea, Japan and Canada. Overall, students were majoring in a variety of disciplines, including computer science, information technology, business, engineering, and criminal justice. Eight students were new to distance learning. Half of the students had taken at least two online courses. Ten students had already taken ten or more online courses. The global ratings of the course on the official online course evaluation were very positive, with 86% of the students either giving the course a "best possible" rating of 5 out of 5, or a "very favorable" rating of 4. Positive general comments about the course out numbered negative ones by a very considerable margin. Seventy percent of the students began with only a moderate to slight desire to take the course, but 74% said that their interest in history had increased as a result of the course experience. Plus, given the opportunity, 90% would take another history course. Eight-seven percent reported having gained a sense of personal satisfaction in taking the course.

Estimate the probable costs associated with this practice: 

The development and delivery of 302 Modern Europe was funded by an internal Learning Innovations Grant of $3,000.

Contact(s) for this Effective Practice
Effective Practice Contact: 
Larry Belle, RIT professor emeritus
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