An Online Teacher's Guide - Whether you are familiar with "distributed learning", "onlne learning" or "e-learning", the strategies and suggestions found in this guide will apply. Created for Bow Valley College instructors to use as a reference for moving from traditional, face-to-face delivery into a blended or fully online delivery model of instruction.
Developing an engaging and collaborative virtual course takes time, patience and hard work, the pay offs are tremendous professionally and socially.
Communication is critical in an online learning environment and a teacher must provide regular feedback, prompt responses and clear expectations.
Expectations must be put in a variety of formats to be clear. Use screen-casting, images and text to relay what you expect your students to accomplish.
Use performance based assessments and social learning experiences. Online assessments must not only be both reliable and valid, but also complex enough to test the student's understanding and skills in problem solving. The assessments must move away from knowledge to application based.
Virtual courses should not isolate the students, but intentionally engage them with one another.
You should take an online course as a student if at all possible, but remember just like any class, one virtual course will be totally different from the next.
The teacher is the most important feature of a successful online course. An ineffective teacher doesn't become good because technology is the medium. Also, a good teacher in the traditional classroom, does not always translate into a good online teacher, there is an entire skill set that must be learned and mastered to be successful online.
"It takes most teachers at least a year to a year and a half to get comfortable in an online classroom. It doesn't happen overnight." - Jeff Murphy, Director of Instructional Support Florida Virtual Schools.
You will be surprised how well you will get to know your students in an online environment. Be open and put your self out there and be there for them.
Give guiding remarks, just don't give the answer, even though the latter may make your life easier.
Be available, make online office hours, check communication avenues daily. Nothing is more frustrating to the student than have some time allotted to complete the work, getting stuck and not hearing from the teacher for a couple of days. Make a FAQ forum where the students can play the role of the teacher, instead of the teacher having to answer all the questions.
Keep parents in the loop, using an email distribution list or other communication tool.
Create a "rhythm" in your course, mix up activities and projects, but keep it well organized and comfortable for the student. Use white space in the design and resources in the course to relax the students. Be careful not overwhelm them, but keep them moving with lots of different options to attack the content.
White-space is key for online readers, it gives the illusion of being shorter to read and gives the brain mini-breaks throughout the reading. Using too much white-space gives the impression of wasting the learners time. Especially if the learner has to scroll because of excess white-space.