Guidelines for Teaching Online

February 2022

  • Faculty Presence

Online students can be very independent, but it is important for them to feel that the course is being taught by an engaged instructor. Here are some recommended best practices:  Start each week with a short check-in and by reviewing the topics and assignments of the week, possibly wrapping up the last week materials.  This can be with a brief video, forum post, announcement, or email.

Offer regular synchronous office hours, sometimes at noon, other times in the early evenings. Offer 5-7 optional synchronous course sessions should students want to attend. Record any synchronous session and make it available in the LMS for students who could not attend. 

  •  Time Commitment: 

Provide very explicit time commitment expectations for your course (i.e., communicate how many hours a week a student should expect to dedicate to your course). A recommended time commitment for an 3-credit online course is between 8 and 10 hours per week in a 13-week semester. You can also provide estimates for specific activities, especially larger or more involved projects, to help students plan their time wisely. 

  • Responsiveness: 

Effective responsiveness manifests at both the individual and class levels. At the individual level, students’ inquiries (either via discussion post or email) should be addressed within 24 hours (optimally within 12 hours). At the class level, it is recommended that instructors make their presence known every day either via a discussion post, email, announcement, video, graded assignments, graded assessments, etc. The goal is to let your students know that you are online and engaged in the course.

  • Organization and Grading Clarity

Communicate grading criteria very clearly (e.g., provide a grading rubric). Students find that class organization and structure is vital to their success. Organizing your course in a chronological order with consistent naming and structure will help students orient themselves in the course. Have consistent due dates, i.e., time and day of the week. Ensure that the names of activities, grading, and due dates mirror the syllabus, i.e., when an assignment is due and when modules are released. 

  •  High Touch Interactions: 

Use video and audio where appropriate. Some suggestions for the use of media is recording lectures, integrating audio with PowerPoint presentations, including a video introducing a variety of content (e.g., content modules, assignments, projects, etc.), and grading assignments with inline grading or audio feedback on the assignment.  Another suggestion is to create smaller discussion groups within larger sections to cut down on redundant content (e.g., same comment being made multiple times).

  • Providing Options: 

Students in the online program are typically balancing work-life demands. Thus, we encourage instructors to include some basic flexibility in their course design. For example, allow students to drop a lowest grade for a quiz or reflection, choose between a group or individual project, or get creative with a final project being a paper, video project, podcast, or something else entirely.

  • Dynamic Content: 

One of the key features of our program that students value most consists of the dynamic and timely nature of material that instructors bring to the course. While some classes are more inherently conducive to this type of material, all instructors are encouraged to include as much dynamic and timely content as possible. Examples include videos of guest speakers, consulting experience, interesting online videos (e.g., YouTube), or practitioner-oriented material that provides students with a sense of the current trends within a given industry. You can include texts and references to current and relevant news and events, and connections to student interest and their lives. Encourage students to find and share content they find engaging with their peers.