Best Practices in Teaching Online

Best Practices in Teaching Online

Teaching Online is more than just knowing your LMS. It is creating presence, community, teaching, and transferring your already good classroom practices into the virtual classroom. Here are some tips on how to do just that.

Online Student Interaction: Creating a Student-Centered Course

Many faculty and staff are working hard (and overtime) providing trainings, resources, consultations, and Zoominars to help everyone be ready for fall. In CTL we are continually adding online/hybrid teaching resources to our website with many links to the Zoominars we’ve hosted including Teachers Noticing Teachers (TNT) with Matt Rouffet, Jaclyn Hadjipieris, Denise Necoechea, and Gayle Sollfrank.

As you continue to design and create course content for online/hybrid delivery it can be helpful to extend your thinking beyond just content delivery to forms of student interaction. Many online educators find it helpful and informative to focus on creating a student-centered course using three forms of interaction for students in the online/hybrid environment and mapping out where they are happening in your day to day assignments and activities: 

  • Student-student interaction: Instructors intentionally create a learning community, making clear how students should interact with others in the class.
  • Student-instructor interaction: Instructors intentionally create a framework for how and how often they will interact with students throughout the course, setting a tone of support, encouragement and high expectations. 
Learning Wheel

There are so many ways to create these different types of engagement, and so they are open to your creativity, content expertise, and nuance. When all three interactions are working together, they can help us meet broad goals for learning, critical thinking, and community in our classes. Engagement, however, will not happen on its own; it must be intentionally built, requiring planning, effort and instructional design. And while teaching using a hybrid model or complete online instruction will not feel the same as a face-to-face class, it can be a rewarding and dynamic learning experience for students and faculty alike. 


Boettcher, J. V., Conrad, R. M (2016)  The Online Teaching Survival Guide, 2nd ed. Jossey-Bass.

Costa, K. (2020). 99 Tips for Creating Simple and Sustainable Educational Videos. Stylus. 

Darby, F. (2019). Small Teaching Online: Applying Learning Science in Online Classes. Jossey-Bass

Riggs, S. (2020). Student-Centered Remote Teaching: Lessons Learned from Online Education. Transforming Higher Ed.

Building Community

Engage, engage, engage! Building relationships with students online is about having a “supporting community [which] can provide learners with the motivation and opportunities for applying and connecting knowledge.” (Sano, 2019) While all students benefit from knowing they are important to you and their role in the course, it is particularly beneficial for students with trauma, first-generation, or at risk students. Some ideas include the following:

  • Pay attention when students introduce themselves, and take notes. You can better engage in conversation with them later.
  • When synchronous, ask students how they are doing or how their weekend went.
  • Share your family photos, stories, or pets with them. Engage students when they share their own family photos, stories, or pets.
  • Be human. Allow your students to see your failures, too. Your real stories will help to build trust.
  • Convey positive emotion. Use humor, emojis, or fun memes strategically in your exchanges with students.

Excerpts and short quotations from: How to Build Meaningful Community for Online Learners #DLNchat, by Michael Sano, March 18, 2019.

Time Management Tips for Teaching Online

Time management is the ability to manage tasks in a given period of time. The following tips are provided to help effectively manage tasks associated with teaching online.

Manage Your Time

  • Establish a routine with daily hours to answer email and to be involved and active in online discussions.
  • Divide the task of grading written assignments to different days to avoid feeling overwhelmed and to provide meaningful feedback.
  • Allow yourself sufficient time to respond individually to students each week.
  • Use a page or ungraded discussion forum for frequently asked questions and answers; populate this discussion area with your responses and direct students to check there for answers.
  • Utilize a log to note edits needed for the next iteration of the course; update the log with your notes to streamline course modifications in the future.

Manage Student Time Expectations

  • Establish and clearly communicate typical response times for communications and assignments. Consider statements such as these:
    • Response time is generally within a few hours during the normal work week and will not exceed 24 hours. Email sent after hours or on weekends will be answered the next business day before noon.
    • Feedback on your assignments will be provided within 3-5 days after submission.
  • Encourage students to post discussion board comments early in the week. Consider using a two-part due date for discussions: the initial post and responses to peers.
  • Send weekly announcements to students to help pace the upcoming workload.

Manage Time with Tools

  • Streamline the grading process where possible with the following:
    • Use the Gradebook to disseminate comments and feedback.
    • Develop and use rubrics for assignments to clearly articulate expectations and simplify the scoring process.
    • Use Test (quiz) tools to auto-score student assessments.
    • Create and continuously update a Word document for each assignment with feedback statements typically provided to students. Reuse comments with customization as often
      as you are able.