Transitioning to Online Teaching

Teaching that is mediated by technology is different than teaching in a face-to-face setting, just as a movie differs from a play. Both are powerful experiences, but they require very different activities to implement successfully. Learn about these differences before you begin your course.

Content and Delivery

Online learning should be broken into smaller pieces or chunks that take twenty-thirty minutes or so to process, with videos generally under ten minutes.

Interspersing content with quiz questions, applications, discussions or other assignments helps address different learning styles, helps students process information as they go, and this active learning extends their attention span.

Instructor and Student Roles

In a face-to-face course, students focus on the teacher. In an online course, their focus is split between you and the words and images on the computer screen. This means that online learning is frequently more student-driven. As an instructor, listen to what they want to learn, and focus on what students do to develop knowledge and skills rather than on what they read.

  • Give them choices where you can.
  • Use communication tools to help them teach each other.
  • A good online instructor is a curator, designer and facilitator, not the only source of information.

Student Responsibility

Online learners require more interaction with the instructor. F2F learners implicitly designate one or two of their members to be "participators." These students ask most of the questions and give the instructor feedback while the others learn more quietly. Because online students can't always watch the interaction of others, be prepared to answer plenty of questions.

To keep your burden as instructor reasonable, pre-empt questions by answering them in support materials before they need to be asked.

Encourage interaction between students so that they can get help from classmates in addition to the instructor. Create a Course Q&A discussion area where students can post (and answer) questions.

Provide links to online resources in technology and the subject you are teaching.

Student Support

F2F learners know the drill. Online learners may not. We all have many years of training in how to behave in a classroom. The social rules, class procedures, and expectations for online learning are less clear. In an online class, it can take some time for students to get their questions answered, which causes confusion and frustration.

  • Online materials have to be clear, consistent, fully-explained and accurate. Every item that you take the time to make clear in advance will save a dozen emailed and posted questions later.

Online instructors become the first line of support for course questions and technology. Participants will look to you for technical help when taking online courses.

  • Utilize the Canvas Instructor Help Guides and Instructor Video Guides to increase your skills using Canvas features and tools.
  • You can also collect a set of resources to which you can send students. You don't have to be a technical wizard, but you do need to know enough to begin troubleshooting when problems arise.