Orientation to Teaching Online


Characteristics | Considerations | Creating OC Homepage | More info

First and foremost to designing online instruction is the necessity to recognize how teaching online is different from teaching face-to-face. While some of these differences are obstacles to overcome, others are very advantageous. In fact, many traditional courses are now taking advantage of the Online Classroom (D2L) to manage course resources, assignments, and assessments. This"blended instruction" (also known as "hybrid" instruction) combines face-to-face instruction with online instruction in a way that part of the course meetings or learning activities are conducted online.


  • Characteristics of Online Teaching and Learning

    How is teaching online different from a traditional setting?
    •  • Separation between instructor and learner
    •  • Separation between learner and other learners
    •  • Higher degree of anonymity
    •  • Delay in feedback
    •  • Primarily text-based communication
    •  • Pauses in communication
    Due to the text-based and asynchronous nature of online course communication, it is necessary for online instructors to be willing to support learners to a much greater degree than in traditional courses to know what to do, when to do it, and how it is expected to be done. The barriers mentioned create enough stress for learners, so playing “instructional hide-and-seek” can easily doom a course. Those who have taught online will agree that clarity is the key to whether an online course succeeds or fails.

  • Considerations for Teaching Online

    #1- An online course is NOT an independent study course.

    The most powerful attribute of Internet technology is the ability for individuals to communicate by distance. Why would we not take advantage of this in the design of online instruction?

    #2- Lectures, PowerPoints, and assignments from a face-to-face course can NOT be dumped into an online course and automatically work as effective online instruction.

    While many resources from a traditional version of the course can be implemented into an online version, it is necessary to evaluate which resources are appropriate for online use and which are not. Existing assignments from a traditional courses can still be used online with some adaptation for completing and submitting the assignment via distance.

    #3- Online instruction is NOT "set it and forget it".

    A misconception towards teaching online is that once the course is built, the delivery is automatic. Learners in online courses are very quick to pick up on the level of commitment the instructor has towards the course. It is imperative that the instructor is fully engaged, providing guidance and feedback throughout the delivery of the course.

    #4- Text-based communication

    Most communication that occurs in an online course is done by text. This presents special challenges to consider in an online course. When communicating by text, the meaning of the message can often be lost due to the lack of facial expressions, intonation, etc. It is important to consider this when designing course materials as well as when communicating with learners online.

    #5- Developing a community of learners

    In consideration of the previous points, the development of a community of learners within an online course is a crucial component to consider while designing and delivering the course. Providing opportunities for learners to get to know each other facilitates the process of community-building.
    One way to start to encourage learners to get to know each other is by telling others about themselves. As the learners become familiar with each other, some of the distance and awkwardness in an online course will fade. One way for learners to do this is through developing their homepage in the Online Classroom (Brightspace).
    Of course, modeling the behaviors you expect from learners is also very powerful. An instructor homepage is beneficial to decrease some of the distance between you and your learners. The next section will show you how to do this.


  • Creating an Online Classroom (Brightspace) Homepage

    This tutorial will demonstrate how to create your instructor homepage in the Online Classroom (Brightspace):
      Download Creating a homepage and setting personal profile PDF
      Interactive Tutorial (*Requires flash player)