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8 Tips for Teaching Online

1. Be present and actively involved in your course.

Students have said that the best online instructors are the ones that are actively involved with their class. Whether it be multiple times a week or even daily, using communication tools such as the discussion boards or announcements will help make the student feel as if they weren't abandoned. Also, consider “meeting” either by phone or virtual chat with your students individually at least once. This gives students the feeling that you care about their learning and will set aside time to work with them individually.

2. Make student learning goals and paths to them clear.

Give your students an understandable and logical way to access and use course content and resources. Be sure to state the learning objectives in the syllabus, and give a timeline for meeting the objectives.

3. Organization is essential.

Distance education students often choose to take an online course because they assume it will provide more flexibility for their busy schedules. They will need to know what is expected of them so that they can organize their time to meet course requirements. This increased time management responsibility of the learner also means that there is an increased organization responsibility on the instructor. Be sure to prepare syllabus and assignment due dates carefully and well in advance so that students know what to expect and when.

4. Use both synchronous and asynchronous activities

Be sure to provide a balance of activities. Engage learners in more collaborative and more reflective activities. Activities that include real-time interactive brainstorming and sharing are often as effective as activities that require students to think, plan, write and summarize.

5. Create Discussion Board Topics that Invite Questions, Discussions, Reflections and Responses.

Discussions boards encourage critical or creative thinking and supports students in their own reflections and inquiries. Boards also allow students to get to know each other personally and intellectually. Try creating open-ended questions that students can explore and apply the concepts that they are learning.

6. Don’t overload your students with material.

One big problem that most online courses have is they aren’t broken down into manageable pieces known as chunking. If you deliver (for example) four hours worth of content in one sitting you have to work very hard to get the learner to be willing to accept your attempts to reinforce the material. By breaking up the online course into smaller, separate modules- you make it easier for students to retain knowledge and pay better attention to your lesson.

7. Talk with your learners instead of at them.

When teaching an online course it is important to have a good deal of contact with your students. They should hear from you at least every other day or two until they have completed each of the modules in the course. Ask them to contact you directly if they have any questions. Even if you don’t think you can answer their questions assure them that you can find somebody that will. A good rule of thumb for online student interaction is that the amount of time you spend communicating with the learners should equal to the amount of time you would have been in the classroom.

8. Provide constant feedback.

Distance Education courses can make learners feel very isolated, so be sure to provide your learners with increased feedback. Feedback should not be limited to just private email messages to your students, but if you employ the forum or message board approach you should also praise students that are making insightful comments.

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