Crucial Principles and Practices for Online and Blended teaching
Both online and blended teaching require creative and flexible thinking about how instructors can support students in achieving essential core course learning objectives. Instructors may choose to engage their students synchronously or asynchronously depending on the course content or material that needs to be taught.
To have an interactive online course, instructors may apply these basic principles:
1. Be Present
Fundamentally, good teaching requires a proper engagement with students. Just like the face-to-face course, online teaching requires a schedule for meaningful and active involvement with students. This can be done by posting a weekly announcement to provide an overview of the coming week’s topic or a recap of the previous week’s work, responding to questions posted in an online question-and-answer discussion forum or sent to you by email, holding online webinars and discussions, posting a quick video to clarify misconceptions about a class topic or assignment and grading students’ work in a timely fashion. When you are regularly present and engaged in the online classroom, your students are more likely to be active as well.
2. Use the Two-way Dialogue Technique
Face to face teaching allows instructors to enjoy the performative aspect during a session such as watching students faces, their reactions and the students’ energy on the subject being discussed. In an online class, the primary means of communication in a course is written word and multimedia content.
A block of text can be dry and demotivating to students. Therefore, try and capture your personality and your passion in ways that are different from what you might do in person, yet authentic. Include this in Mini-lectures, assignment instructions, answers to questions and weekly announcements.
You can use a two-way dialogue technique which represent your true self and invite an imaginary conversation. You can infuse your writing and video recording with warmth. You can write, for example, “Thank you for your effort in this class. Please contact me if I can help or answer any questions!”
3. Envision yourself as a student
In an online course, it is hard to pick up the nonverbal cues. It is important to anticipate their isolation and plan for it in course design and structure.
Try to envision how your students are experiencing the class. Ensure your instructions are clear and the course outline highlights the topic/modules in a good flow. All forms of evaluation should have well defined marks and grades.
You can have a trusted colleague evaluate your online course as if they were students. Use their observations to help you make a few tweaks. This will improve on course delivery and ensure that students will know exactly what you are teaching and what they are supposed to do as a result. You must be intentional, put yourself in your students’ shoes, and design for clarity.
4. Create Self-directed Course Content
The design and sequence of course content and learning activities in an online course should be methodical, systematic, and purposeful. As an instructor, strive for a course organization that is clear and intuitive. Help students move through content and activities smoothly and seamlessly, so that their attention remains focused on learning the material.
Try to include clear and concise instructions in each and every content category you create for your online classes. Your expectations should be highlighted in a precise manner. Do not go overboard to create volumes of written instructions and overly detailed directions that students may not bother to read.
Aim for a balance between thorough and digestible information. You can make use of an LMS or authoring software that allows for navigation keys and buttons for easy access of content. Try as much as possible to order materials and activities such that the flow makes sense for someone new to the course.
5. Have a Framework for Each Learning Activity and Add Great Visual Design
Give clear explanations and systematic guidance on learning activities such as quizzes, assignments, projects and other forms of evaluation. Let students understand the instructions provided on each section. Before assigning some form of activity, ensure that the course content has covered the basic concept and that students can easily undertake it.
You can come up with creative ways such as asking students to send short videos introducing themselves before undertaking a class activity of recording a video for their project. You can as well look for ways to break down complex tasks so that students make timely progress and receive feedback on their work while there is still time to adjust their approach if needed.
When thinking about the visuals of an online class, look to have a good layout of your course materials. You can break up long chunks of text with subheads and space between paragraphs. Embed relevant images. You may include short videos too.
Aim for attractive yet appropriate multimedia content that all students can access easily.
6. Provide Examples
In a face-to-face class, students can raise their hands to ask questions or seek clarification. This can be challenging in an online class. As an instructor, you can design your course to have multiple explanations of a concept as well as use status icons available in various learning management systems. Online learners, too, benefit from multiple explanations of difficult concepts and multiple examples of the kind of work you want to see. Source existing videos and content that put another spin on a topic.
In addition to borrowing and sharing explanations of concepts, give as many examples of previous students’ work. Depending with the subject matter, you can show examples that are effective and applicable such as steps followed in a mathematical concept.
7. Spice up your class
Try to make online course more inviting and pleasant to students. Use plenty of audio-visuals, media, interactive tools, and learning activities. This will be possible by striving to streamline course organization and navigation. By making your online class more enjoyable, you make students want to show up. And students have to want to be in class before they can learn anything.
Commit to continuous improvement in facilitating and exposing your students to online learning. Invest a little time and energy into developing and improving an online course. The small efforts will have a big impact eventually.
Take part in capacity building workshops and courses offered by KENET, your institution’s ODEL centers, and subscribe to teaching-related newsletters and demonstrate your commitment to student success by pursuing your own professional development from time to time. All the best!