Tips for Teaching Online

Woman sitting listening to an online lecture on her computer.

Moving some of your instruction online can seem daunting, especially if you hadn’t initially designed your course to be delivered virtually. However, you can shift to a new mode of instruction without losing engagement or progress in learning, as long as you keep a few key principles in mind.

First, remember that the overall goal is to keep students engaged with you, each other, and that week’s topic. Technology mediates these interactions online, and learners can become isolated by the course delivery methods. Therefore, it’s critical to remember that:

  1. Your role as an online instructor is to make the class visible to itself.
    Use the technology to create as many opportunities as possible for learners to see each other, each other’s work, and you. This can be as simple as using video-conferencing software that allows for everyone to use their camera simultaneously, having students work on projects in real time and present them to the class, and cold-calling students during synchronous sessions.
  2. You should make synchronous sessions an event during which students engage with each other, the material, and you.
    During synchronous sessions, be engaging, stay on point, and encourage discussion. Use group activities like breakout rooms if your virtual classroom offers that technology. Give the students tasks to do during the session and have them present their results during class. If you make the session an interactive event, not a passive tv-watching experience, students will find it much more difficult to tune out.
  3. If you must lecture, record it and let students watch it as pre-work before coming to class.
    If you must present course materials to the class in a lecture video format, and are concerned with losing engagement in your students, treat the recorded lectures as you would assigned reading. You can use polling, in-video quizzes, or assessment functions to check for the class’s understanding of the assigned material before you start your virtual class.
  4. If you assign group work, make it difficult enough that one or two students cannot complete it on their own.
    For instance, instead of coming up with one solution to a problem, or answer to a question, have them come up with five. Use aggressive deadlines to force interaction.
  5. Create multiple opportunities for making student work visible on the course platform, such as turning in assignments, performance on machine-graded assessments, and posting in discussion forums. Post your responses to student’s visible activities publicly if appropriate. You can create a class blog, or Twitter account to keep students engaged (remember to post frequently yourself to start the conversation and engagement among your students).
  6. Have an engagement plan.
    Wharton Online uses a simple template to start designing blended programs which you can find here.
  7. Have fun!
    Once you hold a few successful virtual classes, you will discover what works best for you and your students. There are many resources out there that you can utilize to enhance your virtual classroom experience, and this is a great opportunity to play around with new technologies and assignments to find new ways of engaging your students.