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.
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.
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 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.
Participants Welcome Bio
Linda Gallagher Wrote:. It is also nice for the instructor to ask each participant to write a general welcome message.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
I hope these ideas are helpful.
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.
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.
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:
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....
Good luck and enjoy! Tammy
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.
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.