A Bakers Dozen Tips on How to Teach a Virtual Course and still lead a real life!

The following tips are from the ITForum listserv and are collected from Alex Kuskis, Larry Keyes, Kathleen Ingram and Lori Williams and edited by Terry Anderson!

1. Use FAQs: If it’s a recurrent course that you teach, create a FAQ file, both with respect to procedural questions, as well as content-related ones, and include it online. Add new questions to the file as they are posted by successive students. Do not respond to student questions that are answered in the FAQ, but refer them to it.

2. Use Students: I’ve often wondered why we reserve the most useful learning for the teacher. This includes things like making presentations, facilitating activities and assessing work. The strong pedagogical rationale for this type of student engagement in traditional teaching tasks coincides with the savings of time that result from assigning students to moderate, present, summarize, lead etc.

3. Let students learn from each other: Team projects benefit students by teaching collaboration skills, are a proven way to enhance motivation and learning outcomes and require less marking!

4. Be organized: Spinning in virtual circles is not only stressful, it takes up time.

5. Be explicit: Make sure your learners understand the nature of online courses, i.e. that they are responsible for more of their own learning, they are responsible for understanding the technology, and they are responsible for communicating. But help them along by providing clear expectations, sources for easily finding out information.

6. Be patient: You don’t have to answer every question immediately, thereby denying the opportunity to other students to answer the question or at least reflect upon the unanswered question.

7. Be upfront: Tell students how frequently you logon and when to expect an answer to a question. – we are not paid to be working 24 hours a day!

8. Be available, but on your schedule: Set and adhere to virtual office hours when you are available synchronously (text, voice or telephone) or asynchronously – don’t feel you have to interact synchronously outside of these hours.

9. Create differentiated spaces: Keep social chitchat conferences separate from subject relevant ones to allow students and teacher options of participating.

10. Re-use content: Learning objects and repositories are designed to save time by supporting re-use of content- but they only work if we contribute AND extract.

11. Create Archives: Get permission from past students to re-use their work as exemplars for future editions of the course.

12. Use a reference management system: It amazes me how many busy teachers and academics don’t use software systems such as Procite or EndNote- with such tools, responding to requests like “can you give me a reference or a source for more information on ….” are trivial instead of time killers.

13. Use good tools: Insist on using a good LMS – things like assignment drop boxes, student tracking, class email lists, easy to edit quizzes and calendars with alert features can not only make work more effective but more efficient as well. These tools needn’t be expensive, as there are many Open Source alternatives.