Top tips for teaching online

This is the second of two newsletters with practical advice on online education. The first concerned learning online and this one includes some hints for teaching online.  University lecturers might be tired of reading about what works online and have had a good chance to try this out since the pandemic hit us. You know what works for you. I hope some of these ideas help with taking a new look at teaching online as we move rapidly through the 2022 academic year.

What do experienced online teachers do?

Kyungmee Lee of Lancaster University in the UK suggested 14 tips for teaching online back in 2020. Some of these are:

Insert some seconds of video of yourself speaking when you deliver a lecture with slides. Students like to see your face and feel some kind of connection this way.

Test that your slides are readable on a mobile phone. I believe your university should arrange the technology for this for you.

Include open access resources as links because you know these will work. How many times have you found that the tech support lags behind the semester’s schedule?

Use interactive activities like quizzes, and make these form a very small part of the assessment so students will participate.

Set up students in groups with online spaces for collaborative learning. This can avoid an overloaded inbox for you.

Once you find a format that works for you, there is no need to keep trying other ones. Students like consistency and expect some similarities in the pattern of the course. This might seem surprising when you receive all kinds of alternative suggestions from your university. Stick with what is comfortable for you.

Three more tips from me

I like to make sure all course materials are available at the beginning so students can move ahead at their own pace. Again, some universities do not encourage this but I know it annoys students when they cannot access what they feel ready for and online learning works well for independent learners.

Some links to materials from previous course versions will inevitably be broken. Don’t stress about this. Instead repeatedly encourage students and staff to let you know about these so they can be fixed promptly.

Your first priority is to avoid burnout when the online mode does not offer strict hours when you are available and when you are not. Do whatever it takes to reduce your working time expanding beyond what you are reasonably paid for. For instance set yourself a strict schedule of hours you devote to the courses you teach. Also, encourage students to mention issues with the materials or on understanding assignment expectations in specific forums dedicated to these rather than emailing you directly about every little doubt or problem. When they still email you directly about a shared issue, put a summary of their email into the relevant forum then answer it there. You might like to email them back and point to the forum for their answer. I never bother including a link because students need to know how to navigate through the course materials.

I hope some of these ideas have been helpful for both online lecturers and students.