Strategies for Moving Your Teaching Online
1. Structure the delivery of learning resources
Instructional materials need to be presented in a sequence that makes sense, in a way that is understandable to students, and in manageable “chunks” of information.
Tips on structuring learning resources
- Organize course materials in Blackboard chronologically, grouping everything students need for a class session or unit together. Consider creating one folder for each week of class and including all materials for that week within that folder.
- Present materials for each lesson in a consistent order. For example, you might present a session overview, followed by a short video lecture, then readings, and then an assignment link.
- Use consistent terminology for class components from session to session — for example, assignment vs. homework.
- Use Blackboard’s assessment tool to create an area for students to submit each course assignment. This makes it much easier to keep track of digital work and grading. You can retrieve and grade student work in Blackboard’s Grade Center.
- SEE WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE: Purposeful Organization in Online NU Courses (2:50 video)
- SEE WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE: Content Presentation in Online NU Courses (3:14 video)
- Organize Your Online Course for Student Success (webpage)
- WALK ME THROUGH IT: Uploading PowerPoint Lecture Notes (4:56 video)
- WALK ME THROUGH IT: Uploading a Syllabus (2:21 video)
2. Engage your learners through peer and teacher interaction, practice, and feedback
Creating a welcoming environment is particularly important in the online learning context, so instructors need to be mindful of tone and clarity in online communication in order to create the “social container” in which everyone can learn together.
Tips on engaging learners
- Create an “Introductions” discussion forum in Blackboard where students can introduce themselves and even post a picture of themselves if they so choose. This can be a way for students to get to know each other even better than they might in a face-to-face class.
- When you respond to student posts, refer to students by name, even if you are responding to many students’ posts at once. This creates a sense of social connection and relationship.
3. Clarify your expectations for assignments and assessment
Shifting to a new mode of learning will be an adjustment for students, so it is essential that the learning climate, expectations of behaviors, and academic content, including learning outcomes and assessments, are clearly communicated by instructors. It is important for all communication to be clear, be consistent, and help with learning.
Tips on clarifying assignment and assessment expectations
- Think about the things you say when you enter a classroom and begin a class. Capture this type of introduction to a class session’s purpose in either a written introduction or a very short video (less than 5 minutes).
- Include a short description about the purpose of each item you post.
- Don’t underestimate the complexity of understanding instructions online. Be as explicit as possible about your expectations and evaluation criteria.
4. Maintain consistent communication, and let students know how you will use various tools (e.g., forums, chat rooms, email)
Clear and consistent communication about your own communication practices can reduce the sense of distance that your learners may feel within the online learning context. Consistent communication can positively affect learners’ motivation.
Tips on maintaining communication
- Post announcements in Blackboard on a regular schedule, so students can come to expect when they will hear from you. At a minimum, post an announcement at the beginning of the week, giving an overview of the week’s activities. Be sure to use Blackboard’s “Send a copy of this announcement immediately” feature when you post an announcement.
- Create a “Questions” discussion forum in Blackboard where students can post questions about content and assignments. Encourage them to use this rather than sending you individual emails. You can subscribe to the forum so the messages are also sent to your email. That way, you can respond in a timely manner without needing to check the discussion forum repeatedly.
- Either set a time for regular “online office hours,” when you will be available for web conferencing via Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, or let students know they can make an appointment for a web conference or conversation. Make a note of your availability options in your instructor profile.