tips for online instructors
One of the first and most difficult tasks an online instructor faces is how to establish the presence of a learning community. Learning in isolation may be possible, but it’s neither enjoyable nor complete, and many online students end up quitting or failing the course simply because they miss the classmate support that is readily available in face-to-face classes. To ignore the importance of peer learning and personal connection in any classroom, including those in which participants might not physically meet, is to deny the significance of social interaction in learning.
Student engagement is a popular topic and the overwhelming majority of the information on this topic is concentrated on the big issues of keeping students engaged, such as the importance of faculty presence in the classroom, adhering to deadlines and responding to students in a timely manner, and giving thorough feedback on assignments.
Almost 25 years have passed since Chickering and Gamson offered seven principles for good instructional practices in undergraduate education. While the state of undergraduate education has evolved to some degree over that time, I think the seven principles still have a place in today’s collegiate classroom. Originally written to communicate best practices for face-to-face instruction, the principles translate well to the online classroom and can help to provide guidance for those of us designing courses to be taught online.
Monica Rothschild-Boros, an art appreciation and cultural anthropology instructor at Orange Coast College, uses a combination of embedded lecture questions, threaded discussion, and innovative assignments to engage students and get them to think critically in her online courses.
Teaching online is a rewarding experience; but any instructor who makes the transition to online education, thinking it will be easier and less time-consuming than face-to-face classroom teaching, is in for a big surprise! Establishing a regular presence in the online classroom, grading assignments and discussions, and maintaining records and notes from term to term are all time consuming – but essential – tasks. Learning to take care of the details of online teaching more efficiently makes it possible to be more effective in your teaching. The following is an abbreviated version of guidance I provide to new instructors about ways to keep their course files organized, students engaged, and workload manageable.
Heidi Beezley, instructional technologist at Georgia Perimeter College, strives to instill online courses with active learning, “providing opportunities for students to meaningfully talk and listen, write, read, and reflect on the content, ideas, issues, and concerns of an academic subject” (as defined by Meyers and Jones). To this she adds: “interact[ing] with realia, manipulatives, simulations,
If you use PowerPoint lectures in your face-to-face classes, you can use those same lectures as jumping-off points for creating narrated animations for your online students to watch. That’s the good news.
However, chances are you’ll need to make extensive changes—both to your existing PowerPoint slides, and to how you deliver them. Typically, this means scripting the lecture before narrating and recording it so that all information presented online is:
Despite the tremendous growth of online education programs, student retention for online courses remains problematic. The attrition rate from online universities is often cited as 20% to 50% (Diaz, 2002). Studies also reveal that attrition from online programs can be as high as 70% to 80% (Dagger, Wade & Conlan, 2004).
Which online instructor characteristics help students succeed? It’s a rather basic question that has not been adequately answered. We did a literature search to find if anybody had done any research from the students’ perspective on what constitutes a quality online instructor. There were perhaps 10 articles by professors speculating about what they thought defined quality online instruction, but nobody had asked students.
As professors, we all have seen first-time students who are so nervous that they do not even know where to begin, let alone how to achieve their educational goals. I am one of those lucky professors who works with adult students who are going back to school for a myriad of reasons, and are choosing to take online classes. Not only do these students need help with writing an academic paper, and how to submit an assignment to a dropbox, but their self-esteem and support system are sometimes lacking.