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Suggestions for Teaching an Online Course


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Online learning is based on evolving technology that must work with varied pedagogies and course content. There is no ideal course. However, it is possible to offer suggestions on how to design a course, how to help students learn, and how to anticipate common problems.

Online Learning Basics

  • Don't assume that your students know how to take an online course
  • At the begining of the course, tell them, as explicitly as possible, where to go for help
  • Don't assume that wha tyou put on the online course is all that the students need (or could help them) - guide students in the use of appropriate academic resources used to enhance course content

Relating to Students

  • Take a pro-active approaches to contact with students
  • Be prepared for students to post negative things about the course, and realize that they may not represent broader feelings.
  • Provide constructive, timely feedback on student work

Student Skills and Computer Equipment

  • Don’t assume students have the required equipment for the course.
  • Create a list of specific computer skills that they will need.
  • Make the minimum computer skills and equipment requirements readily available to students before the official start date, even email them.

Learning Skills

  • Don’t assume that students know how to learn.
  • Offer them short study tips throughout the semester
  • Describe differences between traditional and online learning
  • Remind students that even though they are at home when they work on the course, they still need to find an environment free from distractions where they can focus on the course material.

Student Interaction

  • Don’t assume students know how to behave in a Web course.
  • Require them to sign a behavior and ethics contract that outlines a code of acceptable conduct for the course.
  • Explain concepts like flaming, using all caps, and proper interpersonal communication (inappropriate tone) on the Web.
  • Encourage collaboration through discussion, feedback and any other appropriate kind of interaction.

The Big Picture of the Course

  • Don't assume students know the more important rules and regulations in the syllabus.
  • Don't assume that your students know how to navigate your course - you know where things are because you put them there!
  • Give them a short syllabus quiz and require that they score 100 percent before they can continue in the course.


Improving the Course

  • Conduct learning assessment techniques as part of ongoing critical self-assessment of the pedagogy and design being used.
  • Improve the course as soon as you can after the previous course is finished, before you forget what you wanted to change.