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Expectations of Teaching Online

After you have finished your course structure, content, and activities and the term begins, there is a great deal you can do to teach a very successful course. Several experienced online instructors have concurred that interactivity is the key to creating a great online course.

General Good Practice in Online Teaching

Judith Boettcher published an outstanding article titled “Ten Best Practices for Teaching Online: Quick Guide for New Online Faculty.” An overview of her 10 good practices follows:

  1. Be present at the course site
  2. Create a supportive online course community
  3. Share a set of very clear expectations for your students and for yourself as to how you will communicate and how much time students should be spending each week
  4. Use a variety of large group, small group, and individual work experiences
  5. Use both synchronous and asynchronous activities
  6. Early in the term (about week 3) ask for informal feedback on “How is the course going?” and “Do you have any suggestions?”
  7. Prepare discussion posts that invite questions, discussion, reflections, and responses
  8. Focus content resources and applications and links to current events and examples that are easily accessed from learners’ computers
  9. Combine core concept learning with customized and personalized learning
  10. Plan a good closing and wrap up activity for the course

Each of these practices is detailed in her article and some points have specific tips or suggested text you could use.

Online Office Hours

It may also be helpful to think about the ways that you will hold virtual office hours. While any instant messaging function could be used, UGA also provides Zoom for videoconferencing. Video conferencing is more engaging and takes less time than typing but can be less accessible than using text-based chat functions. Whatever set of tools you use, it is good practice to be sure that your students know when you expect to be available and unavailable online. If you do not log in on Saturdays, then tell your students that they will not get replies from you on Saturdays and please avoid making anything due at times you know you will not be online.

Building Online Community

Kevin Wilcoxon wrote “Building an Online Learning Community” in 2011 and it is a good primer. The core elements are that building online learning communities takes understanding the changing roles of the instructors and students during the course and managing discussions effectively as well as elements of online presence that set the climate, support discourse, and promote the right content.

The Changing Roles of Students and Instructors during a Course

Conrad and Donaldson describe the changing role of students throughout a course in Engaging the Online Learner.

Phase Weeks Learner Role Instructor Role
1 1 to 2 Newcomer Social Negotiator
2 3 to 4 Cooperator Structural Engineer
3 5 to 6 Collaborator Facilitator
4 Beyond Initiator/Partner Challenger/Partner

Managing Discussions

Here is a summary of discussion management issues. Note how issues come and go along with the phases of development.

  • Asking good questions and providing complete initial instructions
  • Ongoing monitoring
  • Redirecting, providing additional instruction, clarifying as necessary
  • Summarizing at key junctures, prompting movement toward resolution
  • Privately prompting those who participate too much and those who don’t participate enough
  • Calling out and correcting netiquette offenders – privately
  • Deleting inappropriate messages
  • Managing conflict
  • Moving discussions through the cognitive phases, using prompts
  • Moving the group through the phases of learner engagement, evolving expectations

Social, Cognitive, and Teaching Elements of Presence

To have a successful online learning community, instructors must maintain social, cognitive, and teaching elements in their online presence. Social elements engage interactivity, cognitive elements engage exploration and reflection, and teaching elements include organization, facilitation, and modeling good thinking. Social and cognitive elements of presence are used to promote supportive discourse; cognitive and teaching elements promote the correct content, and teaching and social elements help to set the right climate. Together, these elements and their combinations enhances the educational experience.