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Advise for rookies  

Clearly, some of you are very experienced at online teaching. Can you offer your one most important piece of advice or suggestion to those of us who haven't yet taught online?

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Don't be afraid to try something new. Sometimes it works out well, and sometime it doesn't. But, you don't know if you don't try it. Some of my best assignments (both online and traditional) are ones that I thought we dumb or wouldn't work well - I got a nice surprise when students were engaged and learned a lot.

And, don't expect to have everything perfect the first time you offer the class. I am continually changing and editing mine (this summer is the 6th semester I have done it). The more you offer it the better it gets. You will learn what works and doesn't for your course and students.

I find a good way to engage the students is with the discussions. It lets them talk to one another, know that I am actively participating, as well as share opinions about things they have learned. I set up a set of questions for each chapter (usually associated with a reading from outside the textbook) that is mandatory for them to answer. They get 5 pts for posting a response (as long as it is on topic).

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I second Mel's advice and would add more point: supply examples. I've found that a map or writing assignment that is fairly easy to explain face-to-face is tougher online. If I provide examples, such as maps with features labeled or a sample answer for a writing assignment, my students "key in" much more quickly on what I want them to do, post fewer confused questions, and earn better scores on the assignments.

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This post was editted by Donald Reed on Jun, 2010
Be strategic -- weigh the landscape at your institution -- be involved in setting campus policy (do not listen to the "experts" as the field is changing too quickly for anyone to be an expert). Do not follow the rules, but question them, bend them and seek opportunity by questioning the status quo -- be nibble, flexible, quick and innovative.

Pick your course with care, do no consider it a onetime event, but consider the long-term implications for professional development. Develop a personal four year plan for planning, development, testing, evolution, marketing (both the course and your efforts as scholarship), and implementation. Direct your effort to cover all three faculty responsibilities: teaching, scholarship and service. Market your course and effort, both on campus, within your system, and internationally. Seek financial resources for online development and plan how to leverage your effort to the benefit for everyone, students, department, institution, and you (the latter professionally and personally).

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Be very clear with expectations -- even if those appear to be redundant to begin with. I saw a glimpse of Eliza's chart of what happens when yesterday during her presentation. I make a similar chart.

My course consists of a quiz, discussion, a "lecture" (an html page I author that may/may not link to video), text reading, and a lab assignment for each 2 weeks. They are always due at the same time.

Know that sometimes you get a bad cohort and it's not you.

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