Internal - Faculty & Staff

Getting Started and Preparing for Teaching Success

Online Education

A technical revolution is taking place in higher education. The new “classroom” is a virtual world connecting students and educators from around the globe. Unlike face-to-face courses (or “on-ground,” “on-campus” or traditional instruction), where instruction takes place entirely in the classroom and through face-to-face communication, online education is delivered through or incorporates web-based instructional technologies. Different models of online education employ web-based technologies across a spectrum, from supplementing a face-to-face course to fully-online instruction.

Web-enhanced, Blended, and Fully-Online Courses

Web-enhanced courses use web-based technology to facilitate, supplement or enrich what is essentially a face-to-face course. Instructors often use a course learning management system (i.e. Moodle) to post syllabi, calendars of events and assignments. In addition, they may use technologies such as video, audio or the Internet to augment course content.

Blended courses mix online strategies with face-to-face teaching. In blended (or hybrid) courses, a substantial amount of course content and material is delivered online and paired with face-to-face course activities. The time spent face-to-face is often lessened because of the online component of the course.

Online courses are conducted fully online with use of a learning management system. Online courses (also virtual learning or e-learning), deliver course content, assignments, discussions and interaction via the Internet. Instructors teach online courses using a variety of synchronous and asynchronous tools. Lecture content is typically broken down into topics and pre-recorded into shorter segments for digital access by students. Other requirements of the course, such as peer interaction, projects and assignments, are created and/or submitted using instructional technologies. As with face-to-face courses, there is a cohort of students and an instructor who is teaching and facilitating the course. Though many elements remain the same to a traditional course, online courses generally provide convenience for both students and faculty.

Asynchronous and Synchronous Instruction

In online education, the term asynchronous refers to instructor-student interaction which does not occur at the same time. Online course design which emphasizes asynchronous communication allows instructors and students to submit and receive course content and materials according to their own schedules. Popular examples of asynchronous teaching techniques include recording and accessing screen-casts or podcasts, online discussion boards, blog assignments and e-mail communication. Asynchronous teaching techniques offer students and instructors unique advantages in the flexibility of the course schedule, but are best paired with activities designed to foster peer interaction and community.

Synchronous (or “real-time”) refers to instruction or communication which takes place at the same time. Synchronous teaching tools include web conferencing programs like Adobe Connect and GoToMeeting, which combine audio, video, file sharing and other forms of interaction. Think of a synchronous tool as your virtual classroom.

Preparing to Teach in an Online Classroom

As you plan your online course, it is helpful to remember that good teaching is good teaching, regardless of the environment. Have confidence in your instructional expertise, and get excited to apply that experience in a new way. Teaching online is less about the mechanics of online education and more about what makes for an effective educational experience, regardless of where or when it is delivered.

Tips as You Prepare to Teach

  1. Planning Well Ahead of time. You should not plan to teach an online course a week after you first thought about it. Give yourself adequate time to make plans and prepare materials.
  2. Piloting Ideas: Consider a pilot project like teaching one or two classes of your traditional course using the virtual classroom (i.e. Moodle) before you teach an entire course.
  3. Gather Info from Experienced Faculty. Go talk to people you know who are teaching online, get their advice, and ask them to enroll in their online courses, so that you can see some examples of how others are doing it.
  4. Set Yourself up for Success. If possible, choose a course that is easily adaptable to the online format. Ideally, this should be a course that you have already taught several times in the traditional classroom and the course content is already well established. It is not a good idea to develop an entirely new course and teach it online for the first time. You don’t want to simultaneously be developing the course content and learning the technical skills required to teach online.
  5. Keep it Simple. Keep it really simple the first time around. Assess the minimum level of technology you will need, as well as how much of it you will have to learn. You may realize that you already have most of the basic technological skills under your belt. However, be sure to learn the technology you think you will need, but don’t know how to use.
  6. Be Patient. Experience is the best teacher. Just like any kind of learning, you will not know what it is like to teach online unless you plunge into it.

Additional Resources:

10 Things I’ve Learned About Teaching Online
Great advice for online teachers from an experienced online teacher.

Six Tips for Preparing Your Online Course
Careful preparation is essential to the success of an online course. Helpful preparation tips for success.

Preparing Students for an Online Classroom

Don’t assume that your students have all the knowledge and expertise to succeed in an online course. Just as you may be nervous as you prepare to teach online, students too may experience anxiety before taking their first online course.

Many first-time online learners experience general anxiety over the use of new technology, a new course management system, and/or unfamiliar processes and procedures. A whole new learning environment will take some getting used to. In addition to clearly communicating expectations to students, creating student-centered curriculum, and responding to student needs in a timely way, it is also important to provide some technical support, especially at the start of a course, as students get comfortable with the online classroom. While it’s unrealistic to teach students all they need to know about the online learning environment, you can provide them with some general guidance and links to resources that can help

Tips for Preparing Students for an Online Classroom

  1. Provide Moodle Orientation. Your students may be new to the world of learning management systems like Moodle. Example: Simmons Moodle 101
  2. Provide Navigation Information: Familiarize your students with general layout of each module and what they can expect the rhythm of each week to be. This way they can put their focus on learning the content and engaging in discussion, rather than trying to figure out what the next step is.
  3. Provide Support and Study Tips for Online Learning. Provide your students with tips that will help them adjust to online learning more efficiently. If you know your students well, you can also address specific challenges that they may face in the course.
    Online Study Tips: Five Steps to Success in Online Learning and 5 Tips for Staying Motivated while Studying Online 
  4. Provide Time Management Strategies. Careful time management is crucial in successful online learning. Give your students some resources that will help them build their skill.
    Time Management Resources: 4 Time Management Tips for Online Students and Time Management for Online Learners 
  5. Give Students Time to become Familiar with New Technology.Give students information about how synchronous tools and sessions will work before holding your first session. Provide opportunities for students to use tools before assigning a graded project employing the tool.
  6. Consider Connecting Students with a Mentor. Someone who has taken your online course in the past and can offer support and guidance based on first-hand experience.
A good online instructor…Think about…
… is comfortable with technology You don’t have to be an expert, you just have to be comfortable with technology and willing to try new things and get your feet wet.How comfortable are you with technology? What things can you do to help yourself get ready for that aspect of online course development?
… clearly articulates expectations for studentsThink about the expectations you set in your current face-to-face courses, could you translate those to an online environment?
… guides learners through student-led activities Online learning requires students to lead themselves through the content. It’s up to you to create instruction and activities that empower them to do so.What kind of student-led activities are you already doing in your face-to-face courses? Could these be used in an online course? What are some online activities you have participated in that you might be able to adjust to fit the needs of your course?
… responds to students’ needs in a timely way This doesn’t mean you have to be online 24/7. It does mean you need to set up a rhythm and a schedule, communicate this to students, and be consistent in responding so students know what to expect.Think about how you respond to these student needs now. Do you prefer email or phone or contact in person? Keep those things in mind as you make a strategy for giving feedback in your online course.
… manages time efficiently Teaching online brings flexibility, but it also require discipline.Think about if you employ time-management for other things and how you can apply those skills to managing your online course.
… is willing to do it all over again There’s no good writing. There’s only good rewriting! You can do everything you can to make it good the first time, but the next time you want to do everything you can to make it great. Take what you’ve learned and keep improving. Good curriculum design is an iterative process.You’ve seen this in the courses you teach face-to-face. Think about how you take student feedback and your experience to improve the course each semester. Be prepared for this same process in developing an online course.