17 Replies Latest reply: Mar 28, 2014 8:13 PM by Lynne Hoffman RSS

Instructor Tips for Beginning an Online Class - Do you have any Tips?

jayharrell New User
Currently Being Moderated

Hi everyone,

 

What are some tips you have for beginning an online class as an instructor? 

 

I'm sure there is certainly a good deal of flexibility in how to facilitate Online classes. But what are some best practices?

 

Hopefully, the outcome of this discussion regarding these tips will be proven best practices and give you some ideas about ways you can make the

first few days of your future Online course go as smoothly as possible.

  • Re: Instructor Tips for Beginning an Online Class - Do you have any Tips?
    jayharrell New User
    Currently Being Moderated

    TIP 1.

     

    Welcome Message

     

    When you first receive access to your class forums as an instructor  (usually the day before the class begins), send a welcome message to the Main forum. It's important to send at least one message to the Main forum before the course starts because that is where students will probably look first.

    • Re: Instructor Tips for Beginning an Online Class - Do you have any Tips?
      lgallagher New User
      Currently Being Moderated

      Hi John,

       

      I have taken a few online courses in the past and have found that the instructors who make a point of using a participant's name in their responses to the discussions make the online experience most enjoyable and personal for all of the participants.  It is also nice for the instructor to ask each participant to write a general welcome message

      to the other participants in the course.  The beauty of an online course is that you can connect with teachers in the school next to you or with teachers thousands of miles away.  The personal touch, however, makes for better communication and a feeling of connnectedness that can be lacking in an online course.

       

      Linda 

  • Re: Instructor Tips for Beginning an Online Class - Do you have any Tips?
    jayharrell New User
    Currently Being Moderated

    TIP 2.

     

    Participants Name

     

    Linda Gallagher wrote:  I have taken a few online courses in the past and have found that the instructors who make a point of using a participant's name in their responses to the discussions make the online experience most enjoyable and personal for all of the participants.


    TIP 3.

     

    Participants Welcome Bio

     

    Linda Gallagher Wrote:.  It is also nice for the instructor to ask each participant to write a general welcome message.

    • Re: Instructor Tips for Beginning an Online Class - Do you have any Tips?
      Elly Faden New User
      Currently Being Moderated

      Hi, John,

       

      I've been teaching online for about a year. At first, I was very concerned about responding to my students instantaneously when they posted an assignment or in a discussion. Gradually, I learned that I was considering the ideas my students were sharing during the day - driving, doing housework, etc., almost as if I were multi-tasking. I found that giving myself a little extra time to think about my students' posts, and my responses, integrated my students into my life - in the "asynchronous" way that online teaching suggests. Hope this helps, and good luck with your course!

  • Re: Instructor Tips for Beginning an Online Class - Do you have any Tips?
    cdodd New User
    Currently Being Moderated

    Another tip to add to the list is:

    Remember to outline what are the course and participant expectations.  All participants should know from the very beginning of the course where to submit their assignments, when their assignments are due and when they will receive feedback on their coursework!

     

    Would love to see more people add additional tips to this list as well!

    • Re: Instructor Tips for Beginning an Online Class - Do you have any Tips?
      Khorn Novice
      Currently Being Moderated

      Practical Tip for Online teaching.

       

      Having had the opportunity to teach a few Online courses, I have discovered that re-enforcement of the expectations throughout the course elicits more precise and timely responses to the assignments.  Additionally, using first names is a touch of bonding that has proven to be a nice touch, but also having a special place where more personal thoughts, pictures, and/or issues can be uploaded makes the Online class actually come alive.  Online will never replace the face-to-face instruction, but if the facilitator sets the dialogue tone in the first encounter, the "connections" between facilitator and student can be a very positive experience for both.

  • Re: Instructor Tips for Beginning an Online Class - Do you have any Tips?
    pterry Novice
    Currently Being Moderated

    Hi John,

     

    Something I have done that I have found helpful is create a folder for all of my group emails. Whenever I send an email out to the class, I also post a copy inside this folder in the course so that if anyone happens to have problems with email filters, or just losing an email they can refer to it in the course itself.

     

    I also send out "mid-week/session" reminders of what is due by the end of the week/session.

     

    Keep all email short and to the point. Folks don't always take the time to read lengthy emails that contain lots of detail.

     

    Hope this helps.

     

    Pati

  • Re: Instructor Tips for Beginning an Online Class - Do you have any Tips?
    Lynne Hoffman Apprentice
    Currently Being Moderated

    I think developing a strong sense of Community where participants feel safe and comfortable sharing information about themselves and the course content is a critical part of facilitating an online course.  The facilitator should serve as the role model in leading the participants to engage in ongoing, in-depth discussions to share opinions, personal experiences, and resources in a timely manner.

     

    The Orientation session provides an opportunity for participants to “meet and greet.”  Sharing fun facts, pictures, educational backgrounds, and career paths helps participants build a sense of Community that fosters a learning climate.  As participants, including the facilitator, share comments with one another, it makes everyone feel a part of the learning environment. 

     

    As the course progresses, I think the facilitator needs to step back and let the participants sustain the discussions in the forums and continue accomplishing the goals of the course.  However, it is a good idea for participants to check in with their facilitator occasionally via email, chat, or text to share how they are doing and ask questions if they need help.  This way facilitators learn more about their participants and guide them in increasing their knowledge.

     

    Lynne

  • Re: Instructor Tips for Beginning an Online Class - Do you have any Tips?
    mathgal42 New User
    Currently Being Moderated

    I have facilitated 3 online classes with teachers all over the world, because our school system has schools all over.  Based on post-course feedback and participant comments, my suggestions are:

    • Ask participants to introduce themselves via a discussion thread within the first 3 days of the course, and encourage other participants to check the thread often to "meet" other participants.  It helps build the learning community, and many times participants know one another, teach the same grades/subjects, or come from the same area of the country.  I ask participants to give their full name, current teaching assignment, school, school district, country of residence, and something they hope to gain from taking the course.  Not only do I get to know everyone, I also have formative data about at least one way I can help each participant have a more meaningful experience.
    • Help participants learn from one another.  My courses have to do with implementation of new instructional practices, so every two weeks, participants implement a strategy or lesson based on the current readings.  Participants post a reflection about their implementation - how it went, strengths, challenges, potential changes for future use, and suggestions to other participants.  Participants are required to read at least 3 others' reflections and respond with meaningful feedback, questions, and ideas.  After every course, participants have indicated that they gained valuable ideas from these exchanges.  Some even continue to contact each other after courses are over.
    • Give prompt, personalized feedback to each participant each time s/he writes an entry.  Use the participant's name and mention specifics for implementation strengths and ideas to keep in mind.  Reference the course readings whenever possible to reinforce their importance in the process.  Always begin with something positive, but stated in a constructive way; instead of saying, "Great job on your lesson," say something like, "Your use of the Think-Pair-Share strategy enabled you to hear directly from students what their current understandings/misunderstandings were, and you can use that information to plan upcoming small group lessons."
    • Be very understanding when students have personal issues that occur during the course.  I've had students who were behind on assignments due to personal illness, death of a family member, and car wrecks.  While my courses always have a schedule of due dates, I am willing to work with anyone who has unexpected issues.  Everyone wants to complete the course and do a good job, so I do whatever I can to help that happen.

     

    I hope these ideas are helpful.

    • Re: Instructor Tips for Beginning an Online Class - Do you have any Tips?
      Lynne Hoffman Apprentice
      Currently Being Moderated

      Hi Karen,

      Thanks for your well-written, comprehensive list of tips for online facilitators.  I agree with you that personalized feedback is much better for participants than generic comments.

       

      Here's my list of weekly tasks that I follow in teaching online courses.  I am now facilitating my 6th course for 2011-2012.  I really enjoy the interaction with the students, especially in the discussion forums.

      • Assist participants with login/access difficulties
      • Have participants complete a pre-survey for the course that will assist the facilitator in determining the skills level of participants and help set the amount of facilitator direction needed, especially at the beginning of the course
      • Ask each participant to create a personal profile to provide an online presence (photo or avatar and personal information)
      • Provide a personal and welcoming introduction to let participants know you, as the facilitator, are also part of their social community
      • Respond to each participant’s introduction and shared experiences in the Orientation Session
      • Set up a list to make sure you respond to every participant at some time during the course
      • Email participants at the start of the next session each week to outline the topic and provide additional details related to the week’s assignments
      • Read all the discussion forum entries to stay informed about the content being shared by participants and their interactions within the posts
      • Use course announcements to keep class current and personal
      • Maintain a limited presence in discussion forums
      • Respect and facilitate diverse talents and learning styles
      • Send a mid-weekly reminder to make certain participants understand the information in the session and are completing the tasks in an appropriate time frame
      • Contact missing participants to encourage their participation
      • Determine areas where participants need to improve and notify those individuals privately
      • Provide helpful, constructive, practical suggestions to help participants to complete their work on time
      • Post reminders in the course and via email, mobile device, etc. reminding participants to work on the final product throughout the course
      • Offer feedback (i.e. discussion forum comments, announcements, emails, etc.) during the course to give guidance as participants progress to final product
      • Provide feedback indicating areas in which participants have succeeded as well as areas that require further development in a timely manner
      • Detect and correct any participant’s misconceptions or online problems
      • Organize collaborative projects to achieve strong professional interaction
      • Conduct course according to designated schedule with any changes communicated in advance
      • Enforce guidelines for participant behavior such as netiquette and due dates
      • Create online groups and areas for group members to work on group projects if assigned
      • Utilize specific teaching/learning strategies that promote self-directed learning
      • Make reasonable accommodations for participants who encounter difficulties in complying with the syllabus policies
      • Respond to participant’s questions promptly—recommended within 24 hours
      • Maintain privacy of participant’s grades and feedback


  • Re: Instructor Tips for Beginning an Online Class - Do you have any Tips?
    amfgordon New User
    Currently Being Moderated

    Hi John-

    I have been doing more and more online learning through webinars, online courses and TLCs. I recently was looking for some good online strategies for activating learning and even getting to know the participants. I found several really interesting ways for particpants to introduce themselves online and/or engage their minds in the learning. Let me know if you have tried any of these:-)

     

    Doppel Me is a free, quick and easy to use tool that lets you to create an Avatar, you can have participants create one and upload it as part of their introduction.

     

    Pinterest is a social, visual bookmarking site where participants can create a personalized board that highlights things about them for intro activity.

     

    Since we last met, my life has been like.... (choose a song, movie or book title) because....

    This is a nice re-entry activity and particpants can upload a song or link to it or a movie or book.

     

    These are just a few that have worked well for me and it also exposes participants to some new cool tools.

    Best-

    Amy

  • Re: Instructor Tips for Beginning an Online Class - Do you have any Tips?
    Lynne Hoffman Apprentice
    Currently Being Moderated

    Check out this free guide to online learning.  Three prominent educators – Carol Keenan, Tres Tyvand, and Keith Wilson – share 25 best practices learned from years of experience with implementing and growing successful online education.


    See 25 Ideas for Online Learning Success for the following tips:

    • Lessons learned when implementing an online program
    • Planning and strategy, including how to pick your curriculum
    • How to set the right culture and environment to be successful
    • How to select and train teachers, administrators, and mentors
    • What outcomes to expect from your online students
  • Re: Instructor Tips for Beginning an Online Class - Do you have any Tips?
    Tammy Dewan Novice
    Currently Being Moderated

    Hi John, That is exciting you are doing online teaching. I have been teaching online for 7 years now and it has been a blessing since I can take my work where ever I go. Everyone provided some wonderful tips. I thought I would share some tips that help me manage my time and not let the course take over my life....

     

    • Like Pati suggested, keep a folder of common responses to students and any posts you write in discussion boards. I now have a 178 page document full of responses I have made to students and I use it daily to help me in my course. All I have to do is CTRL F and do a keyword search to find the response or topic I need for a student. For example, if a student needs a tip on how to help students build vocabulary, I can find all my resources on vocabulary and post it to them.
    • I try and log in at the same time every day and I limit my work time to 2 hours a day. I find that the class can consume your life so you have to put limits on when you will work on it. I tell my students to allow me 24 hours to respond to their questions.
    • Allow and encourage other students to respond and help each other. I have a Question To Instructor Forum and have students post their questions for all to see. Then if another classmate reads the question and knows the response, they can reply before me. Then I always confirm it is the right message and add my response.
    • Grade a few assignments everyday so you don't feel overwhelmed. I embed comments in their finished projects and I also keep files of my comments so I can use the same comments but modify them to fit each student.

    Good luck and enjoy! Tammy


    • Re: Instructor Tips for Beginning an Online Class - Do you have any Tips?
      Khorn Novice
      Currently Being Moderated

      All of these Online tips are very comprehensive and helpful.  I especially appreciate Tammy capturing the essence of where we can cut our time commitment and still be effective.  Nice job, Tammy.  I am a novice in Online instruction and am picking up as many tips as I can for writing the curriculum, delivering the material,  and still being realistic for student expectations. I agree with Christen in that communicating the intended expectations ahead of the course is extremely important.  I actually announced in my class the first face-to-face day that if the format didn't fit their learning styles, they might need to drop and enroll in a face-to-face.  Out of about 110, only four walked out.  WHEW!!!! Would not have been good if there had been mass exodus. 

       

       

      My latest challenge is to do some combining with Online teaching and face-to-face in my 3 Hybrid classes this semester.  The jury is still out as to the effectiveness, but I can attest to the fact that designing such a course is really a challenge.

      • Re: Instructor Tips for Beginning an Online Class - Do you have any Tips?
        Kingston Apprentice
        Currently Being Moderated

        Karen,

         

         

        I think that you have the best of both worlds, being able to have a face-to-face
        relationship and online is a perfect scenario, and what I think might be in our
        future of hybrid facilitation.

         

         

         

        My addition to our list of "tips" is using an Avatar, from Voki.com to set the stage for information on
        each weekly lesson.

         

        Everyone has given such great responses to assist in online learning, but one of my
        most rewarding experiences with online facilitation is meeting up with my online students while traveling, getting together at ISTE, or just when on the road while working for the Verizon Foundation. This experience was like meeting an old acquaintance that concluded the circle of our friendship. This completion leads to more involvement by the students with future classes.

         

        Kingston

         


  • Re: Instructor Tips for Beginning an Online Class - Do you have any Tips?
    Lynne Hoffman Apprentice
    Currently Being Moderated

    Here's a good article with suggestions to improve your online teaching--6 Ways to Be a Better Online Teacher -- Campus Technology.

    1. Maximize Your Digital Savvy
    2. Be an Active and Engaged Participant
    3. Reinvent Your Wheel
    4. Include Your Learners in the Learning Process
    5. Reassess Assessment
    6. Realize It's Okay to Fail

     

    After reading the article, which of these tips is the most important to being a better online teacher?  Do you have additional suggestions to add to this list?



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