ELI 2013: Online Educators’ Lessons Learned


  1. Feedback is essential
  2. “Guide on the side” = absent professor
  3. High touch is just as important as high tech, if not more so
  4. Don’t underestimate the power of fun, play, and the unexpected
  5. Take a look at the Quality Matters Rubric--there are wonderful hidden nuggets in it (in addition to the big things).
  6. assume nothing be intentional with every aspect your course design
  7. Have plans A, B, C... for all modalities
  8. don't underestimate the power of integrating visual components to course contents
  9. champion the student voice
  10. Nothing beats preparation.
  11. You can never be too organized. Being organized is not the same thing as “spoon feeding.” [hag@uvm]
  12. Put faces with names … get to know people on a personal level in the online world (make connections)
  13. Make everything explicit … say more than you think you need to say
  14. Show your character … personality is a good thing
  15. Be prepared up front to be flexible (expect the unexpected, no matter how prepared you think you are)…
  16. You can (probably) never do too much to get students to engage.  Silence is most likely a bad sign.
  17. Being present matters
  18. Naming is important: file naming conventions, folder naming conventions--navigation is crucial. [hag@uvm]
  19. Account for cultural differences: not all people/cultures feel comfortable doing an ice-breaker that gets too personal. [hag@uvm]
  20. Online students typically won't take advantage of having your personal cellphone number...Really! @ghweisenborn
  21. Make sure your students can’t get lost - make sure they know your expectations, what they should be doing, when it needs to be done, and your expectations for the course.
  22. Have a format for discussion that rotates roles on a weekly or biweekly basis.
  23. Don’t underestimate the time commitment to teach online.
  24. Well-designed media is important. Needs to be an interactive experience.
  25. grade frequently. Every week or more often. If you don't grade, they don't do.
  26. Champion the student voice
  27. Give students the opportunity to construct the learning
  28. Create a sense of community.
  29. wear a funny hat
  30. Online teaching isn’t about taking your face-to-face course materials and uploading them to a course!
  31. It is okay if things don’t go perfectly the first time- they probably won’t. You’ll learn and keep improving along the way...
  32. Prompt and frequent feedback is a must
  33. It is more important what the students do then what you do.
  34. Make a Downton Abbey reference.
  35. Encouraging authentic voices in responses
  36. Adults want choice...give a choice of which activity to select
  37. Be well prepared.  Quality comes from advanced thoughtfulness.
  38. Important to teach faculty how to teach online
  39. Expect that technology will fail -- have a Plan B and a Plan C. Consider this part of course preparation.
  40. everyone likes funny cat pictures. >^..^<
  41. Create opportunities for students to create community and solve their own problems.
  42. Create social presence using audio (weekly audio introductions), create interactive and engaging activities that create peer learning community, including group work, use asynchronous discussions and be present in discussions online, but don’t make them teacher-centered, manage students expectations, manage student expectations, manage students expectations,  provide frequent-feedback, low stakes assessment (CATS, quizzing, etc.) so students can correct learning before big exams (Midterm/Final), don’t use tech because it is sexy; it can be high risk, especially in content delivery, USDept ED shows text w/images impact learning over other rich lectures, make sure content is accessible, evaluate your course throughout the lifecycle of the course, provide opportunities for higher order learning, experiential learning to engage students -- have a great faculty development program that covers all these things and is facilitated by peeps who teach online, use social media ;) (Tanya Joosten, @tjoosten, professorjoosten.blogspot.com)
  43. Incorporate choices for student assignments and assessments.

Missing theme - where’s the research, the documentation, the studies that show that Online Learning is as effective as F2F.  Lots of profs are resistant and like to have this research to review.


Evaluation Guide for Online and Blended Courses


Social Media for Educators


Faculty experiences teaching blended courses


Faculty development for online and blended




  1. Be interesting--use different ways to keep the course spontaneous.
  2. Connecting visually with your students, either video, Skype, etc. immediately at the beginning actually changes the quality of your interactions from and with students.  Instead of a text-based announcement to read a long syllabus - a video walk-through can do wonders for immediate relationship building (personalizing the instructor)..l
  3. Dd
  4. Don’t assume all the students are tech savvy, nor that they have the same level of technology.  Early collaboration with IT staff is key.  Know the tech capabilities of your campus.
  5. Involve those students who are afraid to participate because they fear humiliation. If course is designed to be asynchronous, consider making sure that your discussion boards are really about creating content and community, so use tools that hold back the original posts until all in; then releasing and having students analyze and synthesize the content and reply to a moderated list again.  Use wiki, group projects to have students then develop the topics.... students are so tired of respond, post 3 times (engage..really).... so get them to be responsible thinkers and then creating new content having (1) a F2F orientation and (2) periodic synchronous (online) sessions.        
  6. use solid concepts built around quality matters dic synchronous sessions.
  7. Review  your learning objectives to ensure adequate level of Bloom’s.   Don’t be afraid to drop things when you go online - you only have so much time.  
  8. go crazy like Curt Bonk (R2D2 is memorable). Model the behaviors you expect from students.
  9. Make students accountable for their learning. Contracts are great. (So are rubrics as long as your students are interpreting them the same way you are--provide examples. [hag@uvm])
  10. Project based learning to demonstrate learning outcomes.
  11. Remember that it’s about the student and not the teacher . . .
  12. Make sure feedback is clear, explicit and includes opportunities to ask questions for clarity.
  13. When building the course, think like a film director: everything in the frame is there for a reason. Control the environment--keep it focused. When running the course, think like a good hostess--keep everyone involved, keep things moving, but don’t be the focus of attention. [hag@uvm]
  14. You don’t have to have all the fun. Let students create and post materials, search out and post resources, do video responses, use apps like ThingLink, screencasting, Pinterest, etc. [hag@uvm]
  15. For facultative resources online and free: check out the University of New South Wales, Learning to Teach Online (LTTO) Episodes:
  16. http://online.cofa.unsw.edu.au/learning-to-teach-online/ltto-episodes

Closing question: How do your “lessons learned” align with the four categories? Or, what is one thing you would tell someone just starting online teaching?

  1. Start small. Consider how much time you expect things will take, then double that.
  2. The best way to be an online teacher is to try your hand at being an online student. . . take a course (such as SLOAN-C) and have an “online experience.”