Best Practices for Online Teaching

The following checklist is a compilation of best practices associated with teaching online courses. Faculty are encouraged to follow these steps when instructing courses online.

Before Course Begins

  • Make sure all course content is set up in eLearn and get acquainted with the different features and tools.
  • Look through the Web 2.0 Tools and Resources document. Consider implementing a few ideas. Contact the Center for Distributed Education for assistance in adding multimedia to your course.
  • Make sure your course is ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant.
  • Hide select class materials from student view. You can choose specific dates that each module/assignment/quiz/etc. will open for students to see.
  • Review all course hyperlinks you have posted in your content, update broken links, and remove dead links.  
  • Create an introduction to welcome your students to your course. This should be the first thing they see when they log into class on the first day. Share a few facts/interests of yours. Creating an instructor presence is important and allows students to feel connected with you. Be sure to include a picture, video, or even narration (See Web 2.0 Tools and Resources for suggestions on what tools you can use).
  • Make sure your syllabus is posted in the “Syllabus” tab on eLearn as a PDF document.
  • Create a uniform announcement area- a place where students know they can receive the latest updates and corrections.  This can be in the News section of eLearn or even a discussion board specifically created for announcements.
  • Walk-through your course from a student’s role and double-check that everything looks the way it should when a student logs in.
  • Send a welcome email to all of your students welcoming them to class. You can either attach the syllabus to the email or give them a link to view it. Also, be sure to state what their first steps should include when they log into class. Or you can create a “Get Started Here” module of your course to help students get started.

First Week of Course

  • Create an icebreaker assignment that allows students to introduce themselves and share some of their background info, personal interests, etc. This can be as simple as a discussion. Or you can have students use a technology tool such as Storify or Voicethread (See Web 2.0 Tools and Resources).
  • Report attendance via “Attendance Reporting” in Banner. Contact students who have not logged into the course during the first week. Make sure they are not having technical issues.
  • Require students to read through course policies and expectations. Consider having a follow-up activity, such as a quiz or discussion board reply agreeing to follow all course policies.

Throughout Entire Course

  • Monitor class discussion forums by posting your own responses occasionally and prompting students with further questions. Your presence online will be a model for students to follow. Deeper discussions can improve critical thinking and communication skills.
  • Monitor the course email tool in eLearn and aim to reply to students within 24-48 hours, or less.
  • Grade all assignments and provide punctual feedback for students. Make sure grades are updated continually so that students can track their progress.
  • Be actively involved in student learning. If you see someone struggling, reach out to him or her.  
  • Be available by email to answer questions and concerns. Consider creating dedicated “office hours” where you are available by phone or synchronous chat. Consider offering video conferencing by appointment, if requested.
  • Open and close content or discussion forums to avoid confusion.
  • Keep a journal that you update weekly. Write down what worked well and what may need adjusted in the course next semester. This will help you make appropriate changes to improve your course.

Last Week of Course

  • Encourage students to complete the course evaluation survey.
  • Send a closing announcement to students, thanking them for taking your course and wishing them well in their future.
  • Report final grades promptly.
  • Submit any major course updates or change requests to the Department Chair.