Entirely online courses are those where the students and instructors do not meet in a physical learning space (also known as brick and mortar). The course may be fully asynchronous where students complete course requirements at their own pace with no specified times for ‘live’ interaction via the Internet. Alternatively, an online course may include some synchronous elements such as specified online office hours where the instructor is available to answer questions in real-time, or designated live discussions via video conference technology or a text-based discussion board.
Students in a fully online course may be on campus taking face-to-face courses or live somewhere else around the world.
Therefore, careful preparation of the course design and course materials are particularly crucial in fully online courses. You don’t have the luxury of using class time to clarify questions, and you want to maximize the time students spend in the course learning the course content and completing assessments and evaluations.
What is different about teaching online?
Once you have your course designed, your role as an instructor is more about facilitating student interaction and learning. Whether you are new to teaching or have been teaching in a face-to-face classroom for a while, there are additional skills needed to be a successful online instructor in preparing to teach, developing your online presence, and facilitating student engagement, and communicating with students.
Why is it important to know how to teach online?
Similar to teaching in person, as an instructor, you must determine how you are going to convey your unique personality, facilitate interactions, and communicate with students. Identifying these before the course begins helps create boundaries around the amount of time you plan on spending in the course and how frequently you will respond to student questions.
Considerations for teaching online
When developing your online presence, consider that every instructor defines their virtual self differently. Determine what information about yourself and your work you want to share and why you think it is essential. At the beginning of your course, you may have to be more active within the discussion forums and in responding to student questions. As the course progresses, you will find yourself moving from a more active instructor to the facilitator. It is helpful to establish guidelines at the beginning of the course for how long it will take you to respond so they will not expect an immediate response 24/7. See additional tips on the engaging students online page.
Six Tips for Preparing Your Online Course
Rob Kelly’s article Six Tips for Preparing Your Online Course provides an excellent framework for teaching online. A summary of the six tips include:
- Be clear, concise, and comprehensive. Everything for the course needs to be in place and online before the class starts. Logically organize the course, and there should be instructions for students on how to navigate the course. Use the Online Course Essentials (ONCE) and the ISU Template page.
- Provide a manageable amount of content. Consider how much work is reasonable to expect of students keeping in mind this may not be their only course. To calculate the expected time to complete tasks, use Rice University’s workload calculator website.
- Provide a variety of learning activities. Include a variety of activities to ensure diverse learners can achieve the maximum from the course and meet the course learning objectives. There are many options available on the Instructional Strategies page.
- Avoid making last-minute changes. These changes can result in inconsistent information, such as assignment details and due dates.
- Provide resources to help students succeed in the online classroom. Don’t assume that your students have all the knowledge and expertise to succeed in an online course format. Include the Online Learner Support page in your course, and share the information on it throughout your course.
- Preview the course in different browsers and with the Canvas app on your smart device. Sometimes what works on one machine doesn’t work on another. Consider having a colleague help with this and also ask them to check the course for ease of navigation, clear instructions, and accurate placement of content.
Provide resources for student success
There are many avenues of help open at Iowa State University, but are you sure students know about them? What if the components in your online course are the only point of contact with the institution?
A best practice for online course design is to include the following learner resources: technical support, accommodation information and services, academic support resources, and additional ISU resources that promote student success (Quality Matters Standard 7). Instructors are encouraged to create a “Learner Support” content area within by copying/pasting or linking directly to the Online Learner Support website.
Promote inclusion online
Review and use essential resources from CELT’s promote an equitable and inclusive online environment page throughout the course along with discussing and including these statements in your syllabus:
- “Netiquette is “Internet Etiquette” or the conventions of politeness about the way we use the Internet and interact with others online. To provide a foundation for civility in the online learning environment, we promote the following Netiquette at ISU (PDF) for general guidelines when communicating in this course.”
- ISU Principles of Community, “Students are responsible for living the tenets established in ISU’s Principles of Community: Respect, Purpose, Cooperation, Richness of Diversity, Freedom from discrimination, and the Honest and respectful expression of ideas. Visit ISU’s Principles of Community website.
Use the Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository
If you are new to teaching in the online or blended format or are interested in new ideas to enhance an existing online or hybrid course, use the Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository at Central Florida University website. The repository has three categories Course Content, Interaction, and Assessment, each with multiple entries. Each entry describes a strategy drawn from the pedagogical practice of online/blended teaching faculty, depicts this strategy with artifacts from actual courses, and aligning with findings from research or professional practice literature.
Allow students to complete course work or participate in a discussion at different times in the online learning environment.
Make sound pedagogical choices about the effects of using particular tools for student learning.
Online Learning: Self-paced training and resources
- Means, B., Bakia, M., & Murphy, R. (2014). Learning online: What research tells us about whether, when and how. Retrieved (June 25, 2020) from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com
20-Minute Mentor Commons, a digital library of online seminars
To access the below resources, you will need to create a free account through the 20-Minute Mentor Commons for ISU page and log into Magna Commons.
Once you have created your account and are logged into Magna Commons, access the CELT curated 20-Minute Mentor videos to guide the course delivery mode of Online Learning using the hyperlinked list below:
- How Do I Infuse Equity into Any Online Class?
- What Teaching Strategies Help Engage All Learners Online?
- How Can Online Instructors Make Themselves More Visible to Students?
- How Do I Design Innovative Assignments to Foster Learning in the Online Classroom?
- How Do I Choose Between Synchronous and Asynchronous Activities?
- How Can Online Instructors Better Manage Their Workload?
- How Can I Be My Own Instructional Designer?
LinkedIn Learning video library of engaging, top-quality courses taught by recognized industry experts. Anyone with an ISU Net-ID has free and unlimited access to LinkedIn Learning. For technical assistance, please contact Learning and Development at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Access the curated list to guide Online Learning using the hyperlinked list below:
Online Learning, by the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) at Iowa State University is licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0. This work, Online Learning, is a derivative of Teaching Online developed by Cornell University’s Center for Teaching Innovation (retrieved on June 7, 2020) from https://teaching.cornell.edu/learning-technologies/hybrid-online-learning/teaching-online.