Best Practices: Online Pedagogy from Harvard

Best Practices: Online Pedagogy

This section is designed to help you think about how you’ll teach online.

We’ve tried to keep it simple, focusing on the most common teaching practices that are effective in an online environment. Below you’ll see general advice, a variety of course types, and additional tips on student engagement. We’ve broken up the teaching tips according to the common teaching styles (lecture, case, small group discussion, and hands-on). You may want to jump to the section that is most appropriate to your course.

Some General Advice

Platforms and Norms

Opportunities

  • Focus on the pedagogy, not just the platform: the attributes of a physical classroom don’t guarantee that a class is effective or engaging. The same goes for online platforms. Time spent now thinking about how you want to teach using this technology will be time well spent. In particular, we encourage you to think about which of your classroom-teaching strategies translate well to the remote setting, which don't, and what new approaches you might incorporate.

  • Take advantage of interactivity: online technologies can encourage and facilitate more “lean forward” behaviors than the traditional classroom. Moreover, most students are digital natives who already use remote technology for their own meetings and gatherings. Take advantage of these possibilities. This applies even to courses that are traditionally more lecture-based. For example, as described below, you can increase learner engagement by:

    • Surfacing questions that learners have around the material

    • Using polls to get a sense of the aggregate “temperature” of the room

    • Inviting students’ answers on particular questions

    • Having students engage in small “buzz group” conversations, or

    • “Cold calling”

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