AssignmentsIn the image above, I took Google Forms and added rich text and html capabilities, the options to insert media and create links, and the ability to select the radio button that corresponds to the correct answer. This would be similar to a multiple-choice/multiple answer question, except instructors would check one or multiple correct responses. In the case of short-text questions, instructors should be able to write the correct answer in the answer field, or a range of accepted values if the question asks for a number.

I also added customizable feedback fields that instructors have the option to use, but they should also be able to choose from a generic list of feedback (e.g., “Incorrect, try again!” and “Correct!”) that can automatically appear in these fields for all questions. Then instructors may add any additional feedback to select questions.

Google Forms would be ideal for online education if they had these features, because they also allow for respondents to be led to specific questions based on their answers. For example, if a student answers “4” in the above example, they could be led to another question on the meaning of “polygon”. But if a student answers correctly, they could automatically advance to a different topic.

I briefly talked about forums. But I’ll add that students should be able to easily find forum threads that can answer their questions rather than needing to create a new post. For that reason, forums should be organized into defined categories (Craigslist-style) and allow viewers to search by keywords. I like the way OpenEdX has organized its forums; students may post directly in a forum field specific to the page/lesson it’s on, or visit the main forum page and select an appropriate category from a drop-down menu into which their post will appear.

Peer Evaluation
This feature is essential for subjects such as those in the humanities, where students need to write, analyze, and critique their own and others’ work. NovoEd and Coursera are currently the leading platforms for this feature.

Team Formation
NovoEd has a feature where students can organically form teams, and supposedly this has worked like a charm in previous courses. At Stanford GSB we’re going to implement this feature for The Finance of Retirement and Pensions MOOC, so I’ll let you know how well it works.


  • Ability for instructors to choose template for course environment (like Dreamweaver)
  • Ability for students to upload (.mp4, .jpg, .doc, .ppt) or embed projects into their personal student page
  • Instant analytics (text analysis of forum comments, absolute and relative numbers of students who completed various components of course, activity over time) for instructors and researchers
  • MathType fields for inputting mathematical equations and symbols

Okay, now that we know the basic features needed for an online platform, what should the course-building process look like for instructors?

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