Teaching an online or hybrid course (one in which over 30% of class time is conducted online) can be a challenging experience. In order to provide a rich, engaging, and pedagogically sound course, you must reinvent your course for an online delivery, both drawing upon the strengths of technology resources available, and also building in enough communication to overcome the physical disconnect between you and your students.
Here are some best practices in order to help you create a successful and rewarding online experience:
- Begin planning well in advance of the course—some studies suggest 15 weeks
- Establish clear course objectives and desired learning outcomes for your students
- Get a handle on the technologies you'll need to use to create content and conduct your course. OIT's Learning Technologies Group offers courses on ELMS, our course management system, as well as many other tools used by online instructors. Please contact us here in Academic Technology for a one-on-one consultation and advice on technology resources available.
Creating/Structuring the Online Course
- Chunk course content into modules or units centered around key topics with clear learning objectives
- Incorporate a variety of instructional resources, including readings, video and audio files, images, links to other relevant resources online, etc.
- Syllabus should establish deadlines and communicate course objectives
- Assignments should have comprehensive directions, grading rubric, and deadlines that are easy to follow—this will help decrease amount of students emailing you questions
- Challenge your students but don't overwhelm them—instructors often overload students in an attempt to approximate a traditional course workload
- Focus on real-world problems in content and assessments to enhance students' critical thinking and problem solving skills
- Establish guidelines/expectations for interaction with students. For example, a time-frame that you can be expected to respond to emails, or a when you will be conducting “virtual office hours “ (Tip: answer students' questions on a class discussion board to reduce the number of duplicate questions)
- Interaction is key to student success and satisfaction in an online course - both student/faculty and student/student. Consider online voice chat with webcam or instant messaging (Wimba Live Classroom), voice introductions from you and your students (Wimba Voice Tools), student blogs, wikis, discussion board, etc. (Tip: integrate these activities into your course for a grade—otherwise, students aren’t likely to participate.)
- Give prompt feedback about grades and student performance well before next assignment
- Collect student feedback—what worked about the course? What could use improvement?
- Compare notes with other faculty members teaching online—both from your institution or others (Tip: Online social networking sites like Twitter can be a valuable communication outlet.)
- Stay up to date on best practices by attending workshops, reading online learning-focused blogs (Profhacker, Tech&Learning, eLearn magazine, etc.), and consulting with learning technologies staff. See our Technology Calendar for a schedule of all on-campus tech-related events.
- California State University, Chico. “Rubric for Online Instruction.” http://www.csuchico.edu/celt/roi/index.shtml.
- Davidson-Shivers, Gayle V. “Frequency and Types of Instructor Interactions in Online Instruction.” Journal of Interactive Online Learning 8, no. 1 (Spring2009 2009): 23-40.
- Everson, Michelle. “eLearn: Best Practices - 10 Things I've Learned About Teaching Online.” eLearn Magazine September 8, 2009.
- Fish, Wade W., and Leah E. Wickersham. “BEST PRACTICES FOR ONLINE INSTRUCTORS: Reminders.” Quarterly Review of Distance Education 10, no. 3 (Fall2009 2009): 279-284.
- Patterson, Jennifer L. "Report on Online Courses."
- Spector, Michael J. “Time demands in online instruction.” Distance Education 26, no. 1 (May 2005): 5-27.
- VCU Center for Teaching Excellence. "CTE White Paper: Building from Content to Community: [Re]Thinking the Transition to Online Teaching and Learning" May 2009.http://www.vcu.edu/cte/resources/OTLRG/00_02_WhitePaper.html