Top Four Best Practices for Teaching Online

Teaching online, though similar in many ways to a physical classroom, is still a new and unfamiliar space and needs some specific practices to evolve into a rewarding experience for both teacher and student.

Teaching online courses has become common not only in corporate instruction, but also in generic training courses and even in mainstream college campus environments. Teaching online remains the same as it would be in the physical classroom; the main difference is how students and faculty communicate with one another. Since teaching online is virtual and the students are not physically present, the only way to get to know and understand them is through the tools they communicate with, such as discussion boards, email, chat utilities, and real-time video.

Listed below are the top four best practices for teaching online.

Teaching online: Faculty Presence
When teaching online, it’s very important for the students to feel that the teachers are there for them, care about them and their concerns, and have the time and patience to respond to their questions and problems.

This is where the role of the faculty comes into play, as they must ensure that they’re available online as often as needed when teaching online. Hiding behind the computer screen just won’t cut it when teaching online. In a normal classroom, the students are physically present and interact with the faculty, which helps in forging intellectual and personal bonds.

When teaching online the classroom must be recreated virtually with online tools and the active participation of the faculty. Two-way video will create the greatest appearance of a normal classroom, but this is a more costly option that may not always be practical. Less expensive tools such as discussion boards and chat utilities are very common tools for communication as well.

Teaching Online: Consistent Communications
Teaching online requires faculty to reinforce student self-motivation more than ever. A student in a remote online course needs a lot more self-motivation than a student in a traditional classroom, and with the proper level of communication, the instructor can reinforce that self- motivation.

Part of this reinforcement is making it clear to the students how much time they should be working on the course content each week and how the faculty will be interacting with them. Just like in a classroom situation at college, the instructor should make himself or herself available at predetermined times outside of the classroom.

Communication is the key to the success of teaching online and the faculty should take the lead in making sure all students understand how to stay in touch with the instructor and with other students. It is best to use a tool where responses and content can be shared with everyone and archived for easy access and review if needed. Chat, live classroom, e-mail and telephone contact is essential before any major test or assignment. All these aspects should be unambiguously presented on the site.

Teaching Online: Synchronous and Asynchronous Activities
When teaching online was first introduced, the online courses were little more than updated versions of the distance learning correspondence courses and almost totally asynchronous.

Today with the evolution of virtual live classrooms and course management systems, teaching online has come close to the experience in normal classrooms on a campus. There are many collaborative and interactive activities which can involve and engage the students. Learning is an interactive experience and it is imperative that online teaching incorporates those properties of a campus classroom, which would make it more synchronous and real-time as possible.

Teaching Online: Managing Various Levels of Experience
Teaching online works best when you establish a classroom community and  there is a flow of varied activities and experiences in a virtual classroom.

If a student get opportunities to brainstorm and discuss the course concepts and assignments with the faculty and other students, it makes teaching online a much more effective and enjoyable experience.

Getting together in small groups or larger ones helps each student to widen knowledge and also to develop social skills, so the technology for breakout sessions should be employed to its fullest advantage. Again, some students work best in an individual capacity, so there must be options for students to work in teams and alone, as per their preferences.

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