Many people believe that teaching online is easy and requires little preparation in comparison to teaching a face to face class. However, this cannot be further from the truth. Today, we will share tips specifically for instructors teaching in the online environment!
Preparing for an Online Class…
While there are advantages to teaching online classes, there is still preparation involved. The online environment should be run similarly to a face to face class. Additional resources that would be located and shared in the classroom should also be provided in the online environment. When setting up and preparing a class, consider how information on each topic can be presented in the online modality. A video that is shown in class can be posted in the forum for students to review. An activity that is presented in class can be modified and posted in the forums for students to complete.
Online instructors must review the course content being covered each week including objectives, readings (textbook and additional readings, such as journal articles) and ensure that meaningful content is being provided when responding to students in the discussion forums. This allows the instructor to include additional, relevant content, ask a probing question, or provide supplementary resources, such as articles or links to videos, that relate to the weekly material. In addition, if particular objectives or topics that are part of the weekly requirements are not being adequately discussed, the instructor can provide clarification in an informative post or by posting a question to generate discussion related to the information being overlooked.
When responding in the forums, it is occasionally appropriate to praise a student for what he or she wrote. However, this should not be the only thing the instructor posts. The instructor is paid to share knowledge, facilitate learning, and demonstrate content expertise. The forum is a great place to demonstrate content expertise and knowledge that adds to the learning experience. Posts, from the instructor, should also be substantive. Demonstrate the type of post that students should make when they respond in the forums. Share information on the topic, expand upon what a student says, share examples, and make sure to guide discussions by asking questions. Pose the questions to the whole class as this will generate further discussion. Change the subject line and invite others in the class to also contribute.
Subject Line: Why is it important to study this topic?
Post: Class….as future professionals in this field, why is it important to study this topic? How might this information be applied?
Subject Line: Weekly Wrap Up
Post: Pretend you are telling a friend about the topics studied last week. In two to four sentences, summarize the main points of the lesson.
The forum is a great place to share additional resources such as assessments, articles and videos related to the weekly topic. For example, use online assessments such as the Implicit Association Test (IAT), personality tests, and learning styles assessments when teaching my classes face to face and in an online setting. The links to these assessments can be easily posted in the forums. Students are encouraged to discuss their results or their experience after participating in the assessment. In addition, interesting videos or articles can create further discussion in the weekly forums. Ask students to watch the video or read the article and then respond with their thoughts or how the additional material pertains to the weekly topic.
There is also benefit in that the asynchronous environment. Instructors have time to research answers to questions that they may not know off the top off their heads. They have time to generate a supported response locating information in the research. The sources used to support the response such as peer-reviewed journal articles, videos, links to helpful websites, or other resources to support student learning on the topic, can be provided in the discussion forum with the instructor’s response. Time to prepare answers and locate resources ensures accuracy and relevance.
Feedback is another great opportunity to share content expertise and also guide students’ learning. When grading forum posts or assignments, praise students for areas where they did well and provide guidance to help them to improve in future weeks. A good rule of thumb is that any time points are deducted, a comment should be provided to explain to the student why the points were deducted and how to earn full credit in future weeks. Even if points are not being deducted, add some comments to indicate where improvements can be made.
Thank you for your contribution to the weekly discussion. Next week, please focus on generating further discussion with you peers by asking a probing question or sharing an example to illustrate the topic.
You can also demonstrate content expertise in the feedback provided when grading assignments. Include a sentence or two summarizing a topic when grading discussion forum posts or weekly participation. You may also include such statements when returning graded assignments. In addition to reinforcing content or correcting incorrect information that is content related, it may be necessary to guide corrections that are related to formatting or quality of writing. It is important to ensure you are providing both types of feedback. Challenge students to improve and give them specific areas where improvements can be made.
Another great way to incorporate content is in the Course Announcements. Weekly announcements are crucial to successfully guiding students through the class. Many questions that students have can be answered before they are asked with a quality announcement posted as the week begins. What will students be studying? Provide a brief overview to get them excited to begin the week. Direct them to pay particular attention to certain topics they will be exploring. Direct them to a certain page in the weekly readings that contains an interesting scenario or that contains crucial information such as terms they must understand to gain a full understating of the weekly material. In the announcements, share tips for completing the weekly assignment. Provide some tips for successful completion of the assignment. It may also be helpful to attach resources to the announcements such as writing templates or study guides.
Set the Example
Students can tell when an instructor is just going through the motions when teaching a class. They will give as much effort as the instructor does (or maybe even a little bit less). So set the bar; be an example for them to follow when it comes to posting and grading. Be visible in the forums by posting on several days each week (we recommend a minimum of four days per week with several posts each day). Respond to students in the forums in a meaningful way. This models the behavior expected of students when they post responses and participate with their peers. Review the reading material each week and tailor posts and questions to the material. Praise students for incorporating weekly topics that are not necessarily part of the discussion topic. Redirect them if they are missing the mark or not responding to the question(s) posted.
Instructors can also set an example by returning graded assignments in a reasonable timeframe (we recommend returning assignments within one week). Students are expected to submit work on time; therefore, instructors should also be expected to grade and return work in a similar manner. Not only does this help to provide guidance to students as they complete future assignments, but it also sets an example. The students will take their lead from YOU. So set a good example for them to follow.
You are the instructor; paid to share your knowledge. Do so! It is your duty to instruct. Remember students in your class will be your colleagues one day. Are you preparing them to be? Are they obtaining the skills necessary to be to be successful? Are they acquiring the necessary content knowledge to work and function as a professional in the field? Would you want them to be your future colleague? These are all questions that should be considered when teaching in any modality!