7 Effective Practices for Online Educators

Model for Online Courses
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If you are currently teaching an online or hybrid class or if you want to transition your course online, consider these seven tips that can help increase learning effectiveness in the online environment. The following practices are just a few of many that can be found on the Sloan-C Effective Practices website.

1. Provide social presence through an opening introduction assignment.

For their first assignment, have students complete a personal profile that includes a photo and that is accessible to classmates. Guide students by creating questions that ask about their basic demographic information, interests, plans, expertise, experience, or whatever else you’d like them to share. Faculty should create their own profile in advance as a model for students. Click here to read more about an online program that uses social presence to promote learning effectiveness.

2. Call students on the first day of class.

A friendly welcome phone call to students on the first day of class can go a long way towards establishing a spirit of open communication especially if your course is completely online. The extra time it takes to make phone calls will be well spent as it can help faculty better understand student attitudes towards the course and their educational goals. Click here to read more about an online program that uses welcome phone calls to support student satisfaction.

3. Add a “Getting Started” page to your Blackboard course.

Create a page in your Blackboard course where students can find basic course information like the course title, course number, instructor name, and instructor email. Be sure to provide any information students will need to start the course successfully such as the start date, general course policies, technical requirements, etc. Some other topics that students may find useful are exam procedures, conferencing schedules, library resources, technical support information, and a printable checklist of course activities. Click here to read more about an online program that uses customized getting started pages to help students be more prepared.

4. Provide a pacing guide for online coursework to students.

Students will find it helpful if you provide them with an explicit schedule of course work. Include when students should complete readings, view lectures, complete assignments, and post to the class discussion board. To make sure students aren’t overwhelmed by trying to do too much at once, schedule an evenly paced work week. Another option is to always require students to complete certain assignments on the same day of the week (i.e. – discussion board posting are due every Tuesday). Creating a pacing guide will require more effort up front, but it will pay off in the long run by helping students keep up with class deadlines. Click here to read more about an online program that uses pacing guides to increase student satisfaction.

5. Emphasize frequent interactions between faculty and students as part of course assignments.

When creating assignments for your online or hybrid course, make sure they include a component that requires students to collaborate with you as the instructor or among their peers. By placing an emphasis on frequent interactions in your course, you will foster a better sense of collaboration and open communication. Building a learning community is especially important in fully online courses where students risk feeling isolated since they do not meet face-to-face or visit campus frequently. Click here to read more about an online program that uses required interactions to improve student satisfaction.

6. Use the Pause and Post method in course notes and materials.

When creating documents and presentations for your course, try inserting a simple graphic and notation at certain points to prompt students to pause to reflect and post on the class discussion board. Include a question or statement that encourages student reflection and application of the course material. To reduce the grading workload, faculty can include several Pause and Post graphics, but only require students to respond to one each week as well as requiring them to respond to one other student’s post. Make the scoring scale as simplified as possible (0 point for an incomplete or absent response, 1 point for completion, and 2 points for posts that are especially thoughtful or creative). Then use the Blackboard grade center or an Excel spreadsheet to average students’ weekly scores and convert them to letter grades. Click here to read more about an online program that uses the Pause and Post method to improve the frequency and quality of asynchronous discussion board postings.

7. Provide audio feedback to convey nuance and foster an online learning community.

Students will perceive audio comments on assignments or discussion boards as more personal and nuanced feedback. In addition, they will be more likely to re-play an audio comment than they are to re-read a text comment. Using free software like Audacity, anyone can easily record and produce .wav or .mp3 files to post in Blackboard content items and discussion board postings or to attach to emails. Click here to read more about an online program that uses audio feedback to improve community and personalized feedback.

The tips above are just a handful of peer-reviewed practices available from The Sloan Consortium. Click here to read a synthesis of 24 FAQs and the effective practices that address them.

Do you have any effective practices that you could share? Please leave a comment on this post. If you would like assistance implementing the practices discussed on this blog or any others into your class, please contact the Instructional Design team at La Salle University.

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