By Rhonda Gregory
Director, Distributed Education
For PD day this past January, I was asked by faculty to present a session about online teaching tips and tricks. So, I did! I wanted to share my notes here in case you missed it.
I started out the session with this quote:
“When talking to people about online learning, everyone will have a horror story to tell you.
They’ll talk about an online course that felt like they had to ‘jump through the hoops.’ …
about a course in which the professor or teacher was completely disconnected from the course experience…about a course in which they did nothing but read a textbook and post to a discussion board.”
Kristin Kipp, Teaching on the Education Frontier: Instructional Strategies for Online and Blended Classrooms, 2013
I shared one of my own personal horror stories as an online student. My background is in business and secondary education/English. Math is not my favorite subject, but I can deal with it. While taking an online statistics course for my doctorate I became utterly frustrated. The self-graded quizzes would tell me that my answers were wrong, when in fact, they were correct. I spent hours of time watching stats videos on Khan Academy and scouring through the course materials for help before finding out the problem was with the quiz – not me. The lessons to be learned were really two-fold. For me, I should have gone to the instructor as soon as I was stumped. For the instructor, though, double-check the setup of your self-graded quizzes!
Then a few faculty members in the room shared their horror stories as well. I won’t recount them all to you now. Suffice it to say, we can learn a lot from bad experiences. For example: Providing students with an exhaustive list of websites on a subject but giving them no guidance or expectations with what to do with those sources can be a bad thing. Here’s another example: Simply posting a syllabus for an online class and saying “email me for assignments” is also not acceptable.
Then we all agreed to focus on what we can do, not to wallow in the negative experiences. The good news is:
You don’t need to know magic to help students engage and succeed!
The following list comes from a recent article I read. The recommended strategies were pooled from a survey of master’s level students at a system-wide Midwestern university who had taken at least one online course.
The things students asked for are not difficult or unreasonable. In fact, some would argue that these are just “good teaching” strategies in general. The strategies apply not only to online and hybrid courses, but face-to-face and web-enhanced ones as well.
Source: Watson, F., Castano Bishop, M., & Ferdinand-James, D. (2017). Instructional strategies to help online students learn: Feedback from online students. TechTrends, 61(5), 420-27.
At our workshop, faculty around the room shared their own practical tips to put these strategies into practice. I also shared a few tips of my own personal teaching tips, which I’ve outlined below for you.
Do you have other great tips & tricks that you’d like to share with your colleagues? We’d love to feature you on an upcoming blog post or even at a professional development workshop! Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested.