Make Online Teaching Work for You! Small Strategies for Immediate Implementation

Megan Fixen

Minot State University



During the COVID-19 Pandemic, we had to quickly understand how to use online platforms to reach students and achieve educational goals as effectively as possible. With remote emergency teaching behind us, there is now the time to develop effective online learning experiences for the Fall Semester. Whether you teach hybrid courses or online courses, it is essential to intentionally design your course with student learning in mind. It is also helpful to develop courses that are interesting to students, as student satisfaction is the key to success in online learning (Rios, Elliott, & Mandernach, 2018). Also, keep in mind that it is challenging for most faculty to create a course that delivers course content, rigor, creates an experience, and provides a personal touch (Wilson, 2018). If you are struggling a bit, you are certainly not alone. Below are several strategies for making a smooth transition into an online environment.

Organize Course Content in the LMS


Trying to navigate a confusing online course is frustrating. Students cannot concentrate on learning if the work they are assigned to complete is difficult to find. Course design should be easy to navigate and user friendly (Rios, Elliott, & Mandernach, 2018).

Tips for Success


Provide students with an overview of the course at the start of the semester. Organize the course content into modules and create a different folder for each week of the course. On Monday of each week, a new folder opens with all the work for that week (lecture, PowerPoint, discussion, quizzes, etc.) contained in the folder. Set the course up so that each folder that opens on Monday is due Sunday at midnight (except for major assignments). By organizing work into folders that run from Monday to Sunday, students can look in one location to find all content for a given week.


Additionally, students know that work is always due on Sunday at midnight. Students do not have to remember multiple due dates for submitting work. For major assignments, provide due dates and details about how to complete these more significant assignments. Make sure students know where to find resources and assistance (such as the writing center), along with adequate time to complete the work. For substantial assignments, it is helpful to set due dates for components of the project (such as the first draft of a paper) in the online learning platform to help students stay on track.

Include an Online Discussion Forum


In an online environment, it is important to ensure that a social presence exists. Students enjoy the opportunity to make connections and discuss issues with their classmates as much as they would in a face-to-face environment. Akcaoglu and Lee (2016) indicate that students feel a higher level of social presence when using discussion forums. The online discussion forum allows for valuable peer to peer interactions. Additionally, a productive discussion thread provides an opportunity for new questions to develop.


Tips for Success


It is typically helpful for the instructor to participate in the forum to answer clarifying questions and to nudge the conversation if the discussion falls off. An instructor would not assign a discussion topic in an on-campus classroom and then walk out of the room, and the online environment is no different. Instructors can facilitate the conversation and bring new information to the forum as needed. It is also helpful to provide instructions for discussion forum requirements. Students should know the minimum word count required for each post and whether references are required. Sometimes the specific information is outlined only for the initial post with vague requirements for the follow-up post. It is helpful to include details for both initial and follow up posts.

Offer Varied Approaches to Learning


Student learning preferences are varied. Offering multiple formats of materials can assist the learning process and follows the Universal Design of Learning recommendations (CAST, 2018). Houston (2018) recommends alternative flexible learning techniques to meet the needs of online learners.

Tips for Success


Students benefit from multiple representations of information. Instructors can post pre-recorded lectures, announcements, YouTube videos, typed lectures, and activities in the online forum. Providing various methods to learn course material allow students to choose the option that works best for their learning preference. Some students learn best by working individually, and some thrive in a small group. Instructors can provide a mix of assignments, including some that are individual and others as a group. Students may also enjoy the opportunity to choose if they would like to work individually or as a group.

Be Engaged


It is particularly important in online courses to make sure that students are engaged.

According to Rios, Elliott, and Mandernach (2018), students who are involved in the online classroom are more satisfied and more motivated to learn, and the interaction between a student and instructor increases the ability of a student to connect in a personal manner with course content (Jackson, 2019).

Tips for Success


Effective interaction and communication are essential in creating engaged students. Demonstrate support for both student engagement and communication through online office hours. Set a time to be in a virtual room where students can login and discuss issues they may have. Being available via email certain times of the day to provide immediate responses can also provide interaction. Additionally, offering flexibility for meeting times and arranging a one-on-one virtual meeting, if requested, are other ways to increase engagement.

Conclusion


The transition to online instruction is a new experience for many instructors. Keep in mind successful online instructors strive to engage students and provide interaction through a visible presence in the online classroom (Stetter, 2018). Implementation of the methods suggested in this article can help instructors achieve a successful transition to online instruction and increase student learning and satisfaction.


Discussion Questions


1. What did you find most challenging the first time you taught an emergency remote (or online) course? How did you address this challenge?


2. How do you balance facilitating online discussions using minimal entries versus staying out of the conversation to let it develop among your students? In what way do you typically moderate online discussions?


3. In what way do you most frequently engage online students? How might you modify your engaged learning strategies to be even more inclusive in the future?


References


Akcaoglu, M., & Lee, E. (2016). Increasing Social Presence in Online Learning through Small Group Discussions. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 17(3). https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v17i3.2293

CAST (2018). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines version 2.2. Retrieved from http://udlguidelines.cast.org

Houston, L. (2018). Efficient Strategies for Integrating Universal Design for Learning in the Online Classroom. Journal of Educators Online, 15(3), n3. Retrieved from https://www.thejeo.com/

Jackson, S. H. (2019). Student Questions: A Path to Engagement and Social Presence in the Online Classroom. Journal of Educators Online, 16(1), n1. Retrieved from https://www.thejeo.com/

Rios, T., Elliott, M., & Mandernach, B. J. (2018). Efficient instructional strategies for maximizing online student satisfaction. Journal of Educators Online, 15(3), n3. Retrieved from https://www.thejeo.com/

Stetter, M. (2018). Best Practices in Asynchronous Online Instruction. In E. Langran & J. Borup (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference (pp. 245-247). Washington, D.C., United States: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). Retrieved May 11, 2020 from https://www.learntechlib.org/primary/p/182521/.

Wilson, S. D. (2018). Leading edge online classroom education: Incorporating best practices beyond technology. American Journal of Business Education (AJBE), 11(3), 41-48. Retrieved from https://clutejournals.com/index.php/AJBE

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