Best practices for teaching online

Teaching online offers opportunities as well as challenges. Here are some best practices meant to help make the most of the possibilities, while reducing the challenges. Adopt or adapt them to fit your needs.

Community

Everyone in the course can contribute to its community, and build connections that create a strong cohort network.

  • Update your Moodle profile with a picture of yourself.
  • Participate in regular (e.g., weekly, bi-weekly) web-conferencing meetings to connect in real time.
  • Spend time during virtual meetings checking in about your well-being.
  • Take care of yourself. Share with others how you are maintaining your own well-being, e.g., through healthy eating and activity.
  • Create and participate in a community space in Moodle using Padlet or a forum.
  • Share pictures and other non-course related updates in the community space.

Communication

In an online course, clear communication can ensure everyone stays on track with their learning. It can also reduce the number of unnecessary emails instructors receive.

Here are some suggestions for enhancing communication in an online course:

  • Establish your presence as an instructor by posting regularly, showing your personality in your posts and videos, and connecting with students through email and conversation.
  • Start each week with a “Welcome to Week X" announcement or video that comments on the previous week, sets the stage for the next week and points out key resources, concepts and/or assignment challenges.
  • Reach out to students individually through phone or email to see how they are doing.
  • Engage regularly with comments in forums and instructor updates.
  • Make yourself available for office hours via web conferencing, with a few different meeting times.
  • Record all web-conferencing instructional sessions for students who aren’t able to attend.
  • Consider adding a course Q&A forum where students can ask questions and find answers to others’ questions.
  • Commit to timely response to students’ questions.

Learning activities

Online learning is best when it includes engaging activities as well as thought-provoking material. Here are some suggestions for enhancing learning activities:

  • Know and understand the material and the learning activities you will facilitate.
  • Consider how the learning activities relate to the readings in each week or unit.
  • Include students in decision making, where possible (e.g., choosing between two readings, assignment options, etc.).
  • Simplify and avoid introducing complex new tools.

Assessment

  • Provide students with a chance to practice and receive feedback on assessment that requires the use of Collaborate or MyMedia (e.g., presentations).
  • Think about when assignments are due and how long it may take to mark them, especially the final assignment as students may need to have their final grade before beginning their next course.
  • Be flexible on assignment due dates.
  • Break down complex assignments to smaller pieces.
  • Abandon assignments that may create unnecessary stress.

Time management

Courses and instructors vary in the amount of time required per week. Some best practices for time management can help make the most of time spent on the course.

  • Before the start of each week, review upcoming online activities, readings and content.
  • Plan to spend at least a few hours every other day — perhaps more during the first few weeks.
  • Establish a work schedule and try to keep to it.
  • Make a time and place where you can truly focus on the course and not be distracted by other things.
  • Develop a rhythm that works for you.