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Recommended Resources about Teaching Online

Jump down to: Best Practices| Course Design |Instructor Behavior |Creating Community, Collaboration and Discussion |Student Engagement and Motivation


Best Practices for Teaching About Earth Online
In 2017, the InTeGrate project brought together a group faculty who teach online or hybrid geoscience courses to share their expertise in Teaching about Earth Online. Over the course of the workshop, these participants constructed some best practices in teaching geoscience online and shared examples for their own experiences.

Learning on Demand: Online Education in the United States, 2009
This report by the Sloan Consortium represents the seventh annual report on the state of online learning in U.S. higher education. This year's study, like those for the previous six years, is aimed at answering some of the fundamental questions about the nature and extent of online education.

Quality Matters Rubric for Evaluating Online Course Design
Quality Matters is a nationally recognized, faculty-centered, peer review process designed to certify the quality of online courses and online components. Courses are certified via the Quality Matters Rubric, which contains 41 elements, distributed across eight broad standards which are used to evaluate the design of online and hybrid courses.

The Excellent Inevitability of Online Courses
by Margaret Brooks, Chronicle of Higher Education, v55 n38 pA64 May 2009
This essay presents eight reasons that colleges should proudly--and without apology--offer online courses.

This website is authored by Curtis Bonk, a professor of cognitive sciences at Indiana University. Dr. Bonk is an enthusiastic proponent of online learning and his website offers presentations, webcasts and many resources for faculty.

Making the Transition to E-Learning: Strategies and Issues

Mark Bullen and Diane Janes, eds, book, view with Google Books
This book provides insights and experiences from e-learning experts from around the world. It addresses the institutional, pedagogical, and technological issues that higher education institutions are grappling with as they move from conventional face-to-face teaching to e-learning in its diverse forms.

Best Teaching Practices for Online Teaching

These websites offer general strategies for effective online teaching. Compiled by participants at the 2010 workshop, Teaching Geoscience Online - A Workshop for Digital Faculty

Library of eCoaching Tips, assembled by Dr. Judith Boettcher and Dr. Rita-Marie Conrad, this website provides a list of some 60 plus strategies and tips for effective teaching. These cover a range of topics from course organization, managing groups, developing effective assessments, and more. With decades of e-instruction experience between them, you are sure to find some tips and strategies that will improve your teaching.

Teaching Tips Index, from the University of Hawaii at Honolulu, explores topics from how people learn, to course design, to assessment strategies, to how to communicate with millennial students, and more. Although not all of these teaching tips will be applicable to the online environment, the sheer number of resources linked on this website should provide ideas for your online course, whether you have been teaching for ten or more years, or if you are just getting started.

Learning Through Technology provides a set of resources for instructors who are interested in learning more about how and why they can use technology to improve teaching. The site has a range of case studies, discussions about assessment, and much more.This is a product of the National Institute for Science Education which is located at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The Journal of Online Learning and Teaching has published a paper written by M.R. Grant and H.R. Thornton entitled: Best Practices in Undergraduate Adult-Centered Online Learning: Mechanisms for Course Design and Delivery (January 2007). This paper explores and summarizes research on the best practices used by full-time and part-time faculty in adult-centered, online learning environments. They have a discussion on a list of eight best practices developed after a survey of many faculty.

This is a peer-reviewed collection of techniques, strategies, and practices in online education that have been submitted by faculty.

Student working on computer
Course Design and Instructional Effectiveness

Creating or Adapting Courses for On-Line Presentation (Acrobat (PDF) PRIVATE FILE 83kB Feb28 06)
by Pascal Peter de Caprariis, Indiana University/Purdue University, Journal of Geoscience Education, v48 n5 p673 Nov 2000
The new information technologies provide a great variety of interesting opportunities for instructors wishing to reach new audiences for their courses or to provide instruction to traditional students in new ways. Teaching a course entirely on the Internet requires serious consideration of the characteristics of that medium. Standard instructional design considerations are easily applied to on-line courses, but instructors must recognize that the manner in which things are done in traditional classrooms may have to be modified considerably to provide the same values in an on-line course. It is important that instructors find ways to incorporate feedback, two-way communication, and active learning into on-line "presentations." Different instructors will find different ways to incorporate these components, so it is not possible to say that there is a correct way to teach an on-line course. But serious consideration of the function and appropriateness of every aspect of an on-line course is necessary to provide effective instruction.

A Constructivist Approach to Online College Learning
by Alfred P. Rovai, Internet and Higher Education, v7 n2 p79-93 2004
The key elements of online course design and pedagogy suggested by research as promoting effective learning are discussed through the lens of constructivist epistemology. Presentation of content, instructor-student and student-student interactions, individual and group activities, and student assessment are each addressed, in turn. The focus is on learning and recognition that, from time-to-time, all students are teachers as they bring diverse expertise, experiences, and worldviews to the task of learning. Reflection on past experiences, interaction with other members of the learning community, immediate instructor behavior, authentic group activities, and diverse assessment tasks with timely and detailed feedback are underscored.

An Analysis and Evaluation of Online Instructional Activities
by Dennis R. Knapczyk and Khe Foon Hew, Teacher Education and Special Education, v30 n3 p167-182 Sum 2007
A key factor in successful teacher education is designing activities that promote attainment of instructional objectives. However, in online teacher education there is little evidence regarding the types of activities that can be used to achieve specific objectives and variation from class to class while providing effective instruction. This study examined six online activities focused on the types of objectives instructors often set in teacher education coursework. The activities were evaluated in an online graduate methods course. Data were gathered from the teachers' (a) performance on each activity, (b) rating of questionnaire items, and (c) responses to open-ended survey questions. Findings suggested that the success of the six activities varied. Many teachers gave positive ratings to the activities related to facilitating learning of course concepts and promoting interaction among classmates. Several implications for designing online instructional activities are presented.

A Case-Based Approach Improves Science Students Experimental Variable Identification Skills
by Sandra Grunwald and Andrew Hartman, Journal of College Science Teaching, v39 n3 p28-33 Jan 2010
Incorporation of experimental case studies into the laboratory curriculum increases students' abilities to identify experimental variables that affect the outcome of an experiment. Here the authors describe how such case studies were incorporated using an online course management system into a biochemistry laboratory curriculum and the assessment methods used to document increased student learning.

The Intersection of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning with Online Course Design in Teacher Education

by Kathryn S. Lee, InSight: A Journal of Scholarly Teaching Journal Citation: v4 p77-85 2009

This study employed a web-based survey investigating graduate students' perceptions of effectiveness of various learning activities in an online teacher education course designed to teach instructional strategies. Learner-centered evaluation allows for insights into the teaching and learning process, and learner satisfaction is particularly critical in determining quality in distance education. The findings would inform a redesign of the course with the goal to enhance learning, using students as evaluators. The students' ratings and comments of course activities are discussed, and implications related to course redesign are examined.

Perceptions of Satisfaction and Deeper Learning in an Online Course 
by Leah E. Wickersham and Patricia McGee, Quarterly Review of Distance Education Journal Citation: v9 n1 p73-83 2008, view with Google Books
This research case study examines evidence of deeper learning principles as purposefully designed and evidenced in an online course and corroborated by the Distance Education Learning Environments Survey instrument. Findings indicate that even when deeper learning principles are used to design learning activities, other factors interact with learner perceptions of satisfaction. Recommendations for best practices are provided as a measure of reflexive instructional design that supports deeper learning.

Influence of Structure and Interaction on Student Achievement and Satisfaction in Web-Based Distance Learning
by Hye-Jung Lee and Ilju Rha, Educational Technology & Society Journal Citation: v12 n4 p372-382 2009
This study examines the influence of instructional design and management style on student achievement and satisfaction in a web-based distance learning environment. From the literature review, two major instructional design and management styles in web-based distance education were conceptualized as structure and interpersonal interaction. To investigate the differences on learning output variables, two web-based instructional programs were developed as college level courses. One course was developed and implemented mainly with a resource-based highly structured self-learning mode with little interpersonal interaction, and the other course was developed and conducted mainly with interpersonal interaction without well-structured materials. Findings indicated that self-learning with well-structured materials was not inferior to highly interactive instruction without well-structured materials in receptive learning achievement. This implies that well-structured material can possibly replace a teacher's one to one interaction in receptive learning as early distance educators expected. However, students in the interactive course without well-structured materials, rather than in the well-structured course with little interaction, showed higher achievement in critical thinking learning. In terms of satisfaction, students in the structured course were more satisfied with structure, and students in the interactive course were more satisfied with interpersonal interaction.

Learning with E-Lectures: The Meaning of Learning Strategies
by Tanja Jadin, Astrid Gruber, and Bernad Batinic; Educational Technology & Society Journal Citation: v12 n3 p282-288 2009
Video-based e-lectures offer interactive learning and more vivid and personalized forms of self-regulated learning. Participants (N = 28) learned from either a video-based e-lecture with synchronized written transcript of oral presentation (multimodal) or an e-lecture without the transcript (unimodal presentation). Learners could be classified as "repeaters", whose primary focus was on the lectured material, or as "surfers," who spent less time on the lecture itself and instead used the optional links. Results showed that the learning outcomes were significantly influenced by learner strategy (with repeaters outperforming surfers), but not by presentation modality (with or without written text).

Instructor Behavior

Five Roles I Play in Online Courses
by Scot Headley, Innovate: Journal of Online Education Journal Citation: v2 n1 Oct-Nov 2005
Scot Headley outlines five roles that online instructors can use to increase the sense of community and depth of learning in their courses; they are space planner, pacesetter, host, connector, and mirror. These roles underscore the importance of strong relationships between teacher and student, particularly in an online setting. Headley provides examples from his own experiences as a distance educator, providing educators with a thorough description of their responsibilities and a laundry list of course design considerations that instructors should acknowledge in their quest to create a highly interactive, deep learning experience for their students.

Are the Functions of Teachers in e-Learning and Face-to-Face Learning Environments Really Different?
by Laura Alonso Diaz and Florentino Blazquez Entonado, Educational Technology & Society Journal Citation: v12 n4 p331-343 2009
The main purpose of this study is not to compare online and traditional face-to-face instruction merely to prove which one is better, but rather it aims to highlight some of the possible risks and strengths which may help to improve the role of teachers in both methods. The scene consisted of various thematic blocks from a training programme, with teachers who taught two different groups of students, one of them face-to-face and the other online. The study was designed using a quantitative and qualitative methodological combination, and focuses on the dimensions of "theoretical content", "practical content", "tutor/student interaction" and "design" of the training activity. As a general conclusion, no important differences were observed in the functions of the teacher in the two teaching methods, face-to-face and online; any differences that might exist were usually a consequence of teacher involvement and of the commitment of the institution in programming the learning process.

Creating Community, Collaboration and Discussion

Beyond Blackboard and into Virtual Communities
by Samantha Cleaver; Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, v25 n18 p32 Oct 2008
Online learning is evolving into much more than discussions via Blackboard. Today's online learners are spending time engaged in discussions, meeting in virtual classrooms, and combining online and on-the-ground learning, even if they live time zones away from campus. In response, universities are adjusting their curriculum, learning expectations, and changing how instructors approach topics online. One major challenge, creating and maintaining learning communities in virtual space, is testing both existing and emerging online tools. In this article, the author discusses how instructors can address the challenge of building and maintaining a learning community with students who are miles apart and will likely never meet.

Student Participation Patterns in Online Discussion: Incorporating Constructivist Discussion into Online Courses
by Hoe Kyeung Kim and Betzi Bateman, International Journal on E-Learning, v9 n1 p79-98 Jan
The purpose of this article was to explore student participation patterns in online discussion boards related to their characteristics and question types. The characteristics of students enrolled in an online course and the impact of types of discussion questions on student posts were examined. During the 16 weeks of a course, the participation patterns of 14 students and their 469 posts were analyzed to examine levels of collaboration. Findings suggested that posts stating individual perspectives were dominant regardless of the type of discussion question asked. Higher-order thinking questions yielded more collaborative patterns among students than questions asking the knowledge at the literal level.

Designing and Evaluating Learning Collaborations in Post-Secondary Geography
by Ray C. Waverly, International Research in Geographical and Environmental Education, v18 n4 p233-238 Nov 2009
The Association of American Geographers' Center for Global Geography Education (CGGE) offers online learning modules that support international collaborations in post-secondary geography with the aim of promoting international dialogue on relevant geographic issues. Through the module's collaborative learning activities, students have an opportunity to develop intercultural communication competence, broaden their international perspectives and build a sense of global citizenship. This paper explores ways to design effective online collaborative activities in general as well as methods to evaluate the impact of the CGGE modules on students' international perspectives.

Creating Effective Collaborative Learning Groups in an Online Environment
by Jane E Brindley, Christine Walti, and Lisa M. Blaschke, International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning Journal, v10 n3 Jun 2009
Collaborative learning in an online classroom can take the form of discussion among the whole class or within smaller groups. This paper addresses the latter, examining first whether assessment makes a difference to the level of learner participation and then considering other factors involved in creating effective collaborative learning groups. Data collected over a three year period (15 cohorts) from the Foundations course in the Master of Distance Education (MDE) program offered jointly by University of Maryland University College (UMUC) and the University of Oldenburg does not support the authors' original hypothesis that assessment makes a significant difference to learner participation levels in small group learning projects and leads them to question how much emphasis should be placed on grading work completed in study groups to the exclusion of other strategies. Drawing on observations of two MDE courses, including the Foundations course, their extensive online teaching experience, and a review of the literature, the authors identify factors other than grading that contribute positively to the effectiveness of small collaborative learning groups in the online environment. In particular, the paper focuses on specific instructional strategies that facilitate learner participation in small group projects, which result in an enhanced sense of community, increased skill acquisition, and better learning outcomes.

Student-Led Facilitation Strategies in Online Discussions
by Evrim Baran and Ana-Paula Correia, Distance Education, v30 n3 p339-361 Nov 2009
This study explored student-led facilitation strategies used to overcome the challenges of instructor-dominated facilitation, enhance the sense of learning community, and encourage student participation in online discussions. It presents a series of cases of students' facilitation strategies and using qualitative data analysis of discussion threads within the naturalistic inquiry framework, identifies three facilitation strategies: inspirational; practice-oriented; and highly structured. The study shows that these facilitation strategies generated innovative ideas, motivated students to participate, and provided a risk-free and relaxed atmosphere for participation.

Student Engagement and Motivation

The Little Engine that Could--How to Start the Motor? Motivating the Online Student
by Kay Dennis, Lisa Bunkowski, and Michael Eskey; InSight: A Collection of Faculty Scholarship Journal Citation: v2 p37-49 2007
Motivation is a function of initiating and sustaining goal-directed action. In addition to individual variables, student motivation is influenced by situational variables that include course design, instructional approach, and to a great extent, faculty behavior. This article presents classic literature on motivation and offers a grounded set of instructional methods and strategies with which faculty can spark and sustain motivation that leads to deep rather than superficial learning in the online learner. These classic motivational techniques have a direct relationship with today's online learner. The authors highlight the significance of external influences and describe some of the many opportunities available to faculty to enhance the motivation of online students to learn. 

Engaging Online Learners: The Impact of Web-Based Learning Technology on College Student Engagement
by Pu-Shih Daniel Chen, Amber D. Lambert, and Revin R. Guidry, Computers & Education, v54 n4 p1222-1232 May 2010
Widespread use of the Web and other Internet technologies in postsecondary education has exploded in the last 15 years. Using a set of items developed by the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), the researchers utilized the hierarchical linear model (HLM) and multiple regressions to investigate the impact of Web-based learning technology on student engagement and self-reported learning outcomes in face-to-face and online learning environments. The results show a general positive relationship between the use the learning technology and student engagement and learning outcomes. We also discuss the possible impact on minority and part-time students as they are more likely to enroll in online courses.

Profiles in Self-Regulated Learning in the Online Learning Environment 
by Lucy Barnard-Brak, William Y. Lan, and Valerie Osland Paton, International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, v11 n1 p61-80 Mar 2010
Individuals who are self-regulated in their learning appear to achieve more positive academic outcomes than individuals who do not exhibit self-regulated learning behaviors. We suggest that distinct profiles of self-regulated learning behaviors exist across learners. In turn, these profiles appear to be associated with significantly different academic outcomes. The purpose of the current study was to examine whether profiles for self-regulated learning skills and strategies exist among learners. To achieve this purpose, we conducted two studies using two different samples. We administered the Online Self-Regulated Learning Questionnaire (OLSQ), a 24-item scale with a 5-point Likert-type response format, to students enrolled in online degree programs at a large, public university located in the Southwestern United States. The OSLQ consists of six subscale constructs, including environment structuring, goal setting, time management, help seeking, task strategies, and self-evaluation. Latent class analyses were performed with participant subscale scores from the OSLQ. Our results indicate the presence of five, distinct profiles of self-regulated learning replicated across both study samples: super self-regulators, competent self-regulators, forethought-endorsing self-regulators, performance/reflection self-regulators, and non- or minimal self-regulators. Results also indicate that individuals differ significantly in their academic achievement according to their profile membership; for example, minimal and disorganized profiles of self-regulated learning are both associated with similar, poorer academic outcomes (e.g., lower GPAs). These profiles in self-regulated learning may be viewed as contributing to the development of theory by elucidating how exactly individuals are and are not self-regulated in their learning.

Prioritizing Improvements in Internet Instruction Based on Learning Styles and Strategies
by Carol A. Speth, Donald J. Lee, and Patricia M. Hain, Journal of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Education Journal Citation: v35 p34-41 2006
How can various features of internet-based instruction be adapted to help students with different learning styles to grasp important science concepts? Are there ways of defining and measuring these differences that instructors without much background in educational psychology might find easier to apply than some of the better-known examples? How can a better understanding of student characteristics help instructors and developers prioritize further development of internet-based lessons? Resident students in a genetics course were required to complete internet-based lessons originally developed for distance learning. Students who agreed to participate in this study completed the Approaches and Study Skills Inventory for Students (ASSIST), which was used to sort them into groups with similar "approaches to studying," a concept that includes motivations (intrinsic or extrinsic), intentions (to process the information at either a deep or surface level), and whether their study methods are organized or disorganized. Later in the semester, students' evaluations of the internet lessons were analyzed to determine how learners with different style or approach characteristics used six lesson features. This analysis, which includes five semesters of data, helped the instructor and instructional designer determine what changes would be helpful to many students, but especially those who are struggling with the concepts and not confident about their study skills or academic abilities. Additional insights came from asking students to estimate what percentage of their total learning in the course came from the internet lessons compared to lectures, labs, and other sources.