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I just taught my first course that finished last week and I was asked to teach the same course for next semester. The only difference is that this time I will be teaching the course online.

I have taken online courses before and haven't been super impressed. In my experience the instructor will assign reading to be done within a week and any assignments that will be completed from that week. The instructor doesn't teach in an online environment but more so moderates that way students learn. The student reads the text, does the work. The instructor responds to emails, grades assignments, and moderates discussion boards posted in the online forum for students to collaborate.

This format has the student teach themselves and from personal experiences students who are not familiar with the course material beforehand generally don't do as well.

What are methods to make the online learning experience less informal and more of a learning experience?

  • I've had good and bad learning experiences online. Here's what the teacher in the good case did: The reading and homework assignments were paced well throughout the semester, and the instructions were very clear. The instructor was polite and respectful, and included brief positive comments sometimes, so that students felt they were doing the right thing by asking questions. Most importantly, the instructor religiously checked for questions at least twice a day, every single day throughout the semester, and answered the questions clearly. – aparente001 Aug 4 '15 at 20:04
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If your course delivery platform has things like forums or collaborative writing spaces, you should make use of them to get students interacting with each other. I don't know what discipline you're in, but you can ask students to comment on the readings online, write responses to each other, that kind of thing.

I was teaching a regular course but was ill for a week, and not wanting to miss that whole week of class, I scheduled a live chat during the time the class would ordinarily meet. I think we had the best discussion of the semester that day -- students who wouldn't ordinarily speak up in class "spoke" during the online chat.

Also, set boundaries for yourself; otherwise you'll find yourself answering emails at midnight in your bunny slippers. Tell students if they email you after a certain time, they will get a response the next day. And think about how you feel about responding on the weekend.

What is your discipline? We might have more tips, depending on what it is.

  • Business Studies. I've been invited to teach both management and marketing courses and the course I will be teaching online is a management course. I did a lot of mock situations where I would randomly call up students and they act as a customer or employee and have them handle the situation appropriately to test their reading comprehension. – Memj Aug 4 '15 at 3:52
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    Ah, then it seems as if you could set up various situations online. Good luck with it. – ewormuth Aug 4 '15 at 4:08
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Check out this free online course about teaching online.

I think that teaching online has yet to be perfected, and most programs do not have success rates as high as in person programs (though they may reach a wider audience). The basic pedagogical techniques are the same, but I suggest you take them even more seriously. If students who are not familiar with material beforehand are doing poorly, use scaffolding. Scaffolding is the process of building up new ideas or skills bit by bit. If students are not engaged in active learning "call" on them with a message asking them to participate. Do the same things you would do in person, except do not lecture since that does not work well in person either.

Set goals. Be proactive. Use variety. Tell students to do stuff. Perform assessments.

http://www.crlt.umich.edu/tstrategies/tsot

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