What’s Involved in Teaching an Effective Online Course

What’s Involved in Teaching an Effective Online Course

In this Teachers College Record article, Evrim Baran (Middle East Technical University) and Ana-Paula Correia and Ann Thompson (Iowa State University) describe the way six U.S. university instructors overcame the built-in challenges of online instruction (designing instruction appropriate to the format, lack of student social presence and group interaction, and lack of face-to-face conversations and visual cues) and used the format successfully with their students. Here is a summary of their findings:

Articulating course content – The professors solicited input from students, adapted content from the face-to-face format, and broke it into manageable chunks.

Designing and structuring the course – Course materials needed to be developed in advance, which included adapting previously used approaches, breaking learning tasks into activities, creating a conceptual outline, incorporating student feedback, and being flexible as the course proceeded.

Knowing students – The instructors gathered information on students’ profiles and characteristics (including their varying technological skills, time zones, and motivation), had frequent online interaction with students, and used video and text chat to communicate and understand students’ needs.

Guiding student learning – Instructors gave frequent feedback, tried to resolve issues right away (sometimes by telephone), used discussion boards and group e-mails to provide group synergy, held online office hours, and used wikis and blogs to demonstrate student progress.

Building teacher-student relationships – Instructors used video conferencing, shared personal information on course wikis, used social media to project their personal presence, and worked to establish trust.

Evaluating the courses – Instructors used mid-semester course evaluations to get early feedback and end-of-course evaluations to assess their effectiveness.

Sustaining teacher presence – Instructors used online videos to present content, short videos to update students about course activities and news and give feedback, and tried to respond quickly to student e-mails. 

“Tracing Successful Online Teaching in Higher Education: Voices of Exemplary Online Teachers” by Evrim Baran, Ana-Paula Correia, and Ann Thompson in Teachers College Record, March 2013 (Vol. 115, #3, p. 1-41), www.tcrecord.org  

From the Marshall Memo #479