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Online Teaching Tips

Online Teaching Tips

Teaching online shifts an instructor’s role from being the “sage on the stage” to the “guide on the side.” Once you have designed an online course in Blackboard with all of the essential components (course content, activities and assessments), you will be able to shift your attention to facilitating the course. Don’t forget about the importance of “Teaching Presence” as the semester begins. This section includes tips that correspond to the timing of your course, for example, what to focus on the first week. 

What Changes When Teaching Online? 
Some of the shifts that occur when adjusting from teaching face-to-face to teaching online, according to Boettcher & Conrad (2016), include:

  • The faculty role changes from lecturer to more of a coaching and mentoring role.
  • Meetings are generally asynchronous rather than synchronous.
  • Learners are expected to take a more active role, taking more responsibility for their own learning. Activities may be more collaborative in nature. 
  • Learning resources, time, and spaces are more flexible.
  • Assessment is continuous.
  • More reliance on using appropriate learning technologies.

There are several resources with tips on online teaching:

  • Reasonable Accommodations: A Faculty Guide for Teaching Students with Disabilities resource was developed specifically for CUNY faculty to provide them with information and best practices to be most effective in meeting the needs of students with disabilities and achieving the goal of equal access. This guide includes helpful information in accommodating students with disabilities in distance learning, including the following two sections:

Before the Course Starts

  • Review the course to make sure it is set up properly and students have access to the correct materials.
  • Publish the course at least 1 week before the course start date and share required textbooks and/or other materials with students.
  • Have students take a survey  related to course concepts in order to help you understand their prior knowledge or to help you plan the course. 
  • Help your students prepare for taking an online course by completing this onlin self-assessment: "Are you Ready?"
  • The CSI distance learning website for students also contains valuable resources for students who are planning to take online courses.

During the First Week of the Course

  • Welcome students to the course by sending a welcome announcement and letting them know how to get started. 
  • Direct students to read the syllabus and make sure they understand all the course policies. Establish and reinforce regular deadlines. Some instructors use a syllabus quiz to assess student comprehension of the syllabus.
  • Ask students to introduce themselves via a discussion or participate in icebreakers. See example. Follow-up in the discussion thread.
  • Have them test out any tools you will expect them to use in the course before they actually need to use them.
  • Offer virtual office hours and invite students to sign up to meet with you during those hours.
  • Remind students of how to get technical support.
  • Be aware of students with registered disabilities that may need special assistance or accommodations.
  • Check to see if any students have not logged in or accessed materials in the course.

Ongoing Throughout the Semester

  • Post an announcement at the beginning of each week to provide an overview of the learning activities and important deadlines. 
  • Reciew instructions for all weekly activities to ensure they are clearly presented within each week's learing materials.  Instructions should generally be presented in multiple places, beside the syllabus.
  • Provide detailed and meaningful feedback to students in a reasonable amount of time. Check email and discussions often and reply within 24 hrs. 
  • Set up a Q & A discussion and encourage students to post questions to the class discussion for peer support prior to emailing you.
  • Offer virtual office hours using Blackboard Collaborate or other online meeting technologies.
  • Guide students in effectively managing their time by explicitly stating when participation and submitted assignments are due. 
  • Clarify the due dates for discussion participation. Discussions often have a deadline for an initial post and then a later deadline for responses.  
  • Send out announcements to summarize class discussions or other themes you notice when grading work.  This can serve as a way to bring closure to the week and prepare students for the week to come.

The End of the Course

  • Bring closure to your online course by sending out a final announcement to the entire class or individual students. 
  • Design activities that encourage reflection and prompt students to cnsider how they will take what they have learned from your course and apply it to their other courses.
  • Share your expectations for accepting late work. 
  • Share the links to any student course evaluations your department uses. 
  • Input final grades.