Best online teaching practices

The online learning environment presents a unique set of challenges that require a clear definition of instructor performance. Teaching online requires different types of interactions with students. Teaching online is a relatively new concept for educators used to seeing their students in a traditional classroom setting. Instead of monitoring students face-to-face, online teachers scan their screens and chat windows to ensure students are engaged and grasping the concepts they are presenting. Teaching online is a new challenge, but the following online teaching classroom ideas can help educators better reach their remote students.

1. Instructor Presence

Establish teaching presence early and often:

·         Post announcements, appear on video and participate in discussions.

·         Show your personality, passion, and expertise.

2. Real World Applications

Motivate students by making a real-world connection:

Show students how they will apply what they are learning.

3. Engage Students

The quality of interaction between students is a sign of a successful class:

·         Create educational experiences for students that are challenging, enriching, and that extend their academic abilities.

·         Provide students with opportunities to interact with peers, such as through discussion and group work.

4. Use multiple forms of assessment

Your students learn differently and therefore test differently as well.  Assignments, discussion postings, presentations, quizzes, tests, activities, labs, and other course work can be used as a means of assessment in your course. 

5. Announcements and updates

Updates and announcements help remind students, and keep clarity and communication open.  We suggest posting an announcement to your class at least once a week, telling students what you will be covering in the coming week and reminding them of any due dates or important course or college information.  Whenever possible, provide information about real-world or current event topics that enable students to make a connection with the content you are teaching.

6. Discuss to critique

Conflicting perspectives of students should be developed and examined in any productive discussion. Knowledge acquisition originates from cognitive conflicts from social interactions. These conflicts not only occur between students but also between an individual’s existing knowledge and new information encountered in discussions with other students. The real learning takes place when students re-examine their original positions on an issue and explore new resolutions.

7. Establish a sense of comfort and develop a community of learners

Students are looking to you to set the tone. Demonstrate enthusiasm and excitement about teaching the course to alleviate fear, anxiety, and isolation. Humanize yourself by posting a welcome video, a biography, photos that tell stories about what you are doing to keep busy during social isolation, links to news articles or video clips. Encourage each student to personalize their homepage and spend time going around the class asking students to share information about what they have posted. Incorporate instant messaging, web cameras, blogs and vlogs. Ask questions that empower participants to question each other, and elicit rich discussion. Respond to the community as a whole rather than directing all responses to individual participants outside of the community.

8. Regularly check content resources and applications

Regularly check all links, resources, modules, and activities. Online content can move or change, which can lead to disengagement. Assist students who are having difficulty navigating course links or managing the material spanning across various web pages. Model the process of navigating to websites that are not embedded in the course, and demonstrate how to appropriately manage keeping track of navigation when jumping from site to site.

9. Know the technology

Technology keeps changing, so be prepared to troubleshoot and let your students know you are working on it. Take an hour to familiarize yourself with the technology. Most companies are offering additional training right now. Be very clear to students about where they should go for technical support (good digital technologies will have support services). Make the contact information readily available, and be prepared to direct students there if they come to you.