Some basics for success in the online learning environment

The transition from face-to-face (F2F) to online teaching can be challenging! In addition to the expected challenges, like finding and creating dynamic content, instructors new to online teaching encounter unexpected challenges in the mundane: managing communication, getting regular participation, and generating productive discussion.

A colleague wrote to me recently about these everyday issues. Here’s my response – which I hope will be helpful to others new to the online learning environment!

  • Managing communications

(I): Announcements to send weekly reminders to students. I take advantage of the function for sending the Announcement as an email, as well. In this way, students have one more resource to keep them on task.

(II): A variety of feedback methods, including individual written and oral/recorded comments and classwide feedback. I also maintain a static forum for asking questions about the course, while using email exclusively for students’ confidential matters. This variety of feedback methods seems to ensure, to the extent possible, that I am reaching students me in at least one way.

  • Regular participation: Routinized, low-stakes assignments. This semester I’m trying out a schedule that encourages students to spread out these assignments over the week, like a F2F course; but doesn’t require it, which most students are looking for in online courses. I’m happy to share a schedule with you, if you like.
  • Productive discussion: Very clear guidelines about my expectations and detailed rubrics that are available to students. Often students get the hang of discussion after they read outstanding posts and responses by their peers. But sometimes I include models in my classwide feedback and point out what is excellent, what could be strengthened further, etc.

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