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Online Learning

Best Practices

Remember that the CITL team is here to help! If you have questions, run into issues, or want to talk through ideas, please send a request through CITL to set up a meeting with an instructional designer or email citl@wku.edu.

  • Clear communication is essential in any course but is especially important in an online course where students aren’t always able to ask questions in real-time and often have to “figure it out” themselves. While it is always important for students to troubleshoot and look for solutions, it is equally important that information and explanations are readily available and well-organized so that students’ time in your course is spent on learning and not figuring out logistics. Here are some quick ways to keep your students informed and up-to-date online.

    • Centralize your communication of updates or announcements to a few key places such as blackboard announcements and/or a designated discussion board for questions. Double up on your posting of announcements by also sending a class email to remind students where to find the answer. This is a worthwhile extra step when the update is significant, time-sensitive, or is likely to lead to “frequently asked questions.” This might seem like “hand-holding” but it will lead to fewer misunderstandings down the road. Hopefully, as the semester progresses, this “doubling up” will be less necessary and students will look immediately to your designated area in blackboard.

    • Time management is an issue for all students and deficiencies in time management can be exacerbated in an online environment where students may not be seeing their professor on a regular basis. In the classroom we often foreshadow and remind of what will be covered in the next class/week/module. Consider providing students with a weekly or module-based reminder of what is expected – this could be sent each Friday or Sunday to help them look ahead to what is coming. Lindsay Masland from Appalachian State University posted this graphic on Twitter as an illustration of one way you might provide students with to show them the weekly schedule for an online course.

  • Identifying ways for students to interact meaningfully and intentionally is a great way to help students engage more deeply in an online environment. It is equally important for the instructor to establish and maintain a presence in the online classroom so that students don’t feel isolated and detached. The following are strategies for creating and fostering community online.

    • Create a short (two-five minute) welcome video introducing yourself and the course to students. Talk about yourself as well as your objectives for the course. This is a great way to set the tone for the semester and show students a little bit of your personality. Similarly, ask students to introduce themselves to each other through pictures, videos, or other ice-breaker types of activities on an introductory discussion post. Here is an example of a welcome video created by Andrew Rosa from the Potter College of Arts & Letters. If you have questions about creating a welcome video or would like assistance, please email citl@wku.edu

    • Blackboard discussion boards are a great way for students to engage academically and socially in the online environment. Provide students with clear expectations for how you would like them to respond to posts and engage in discussion and model with examples of appropriate questions and responses. Your presence in discussions is extremely valuable, students need to hear your voice and see your feedback, but be careful that you don’t dominate the conversation.

    • Group work often gets a bad rap and it can certainly be challenging, but group work can be done well online and is a wonderful way to get your students talking. If you’re teaching synchronously, you can have your students work as groups in Zoom breakout rooms and you can check in on the various conversations that are happening. Asynchronously, students can still use Zoom and other platforms to get together and work on projects, it may just take a little more planning on the front end for everything to go smoothly.

  • For synchronous sessions there is a significant amount of interaction that can happen through a Zoom session. Engage your students with the chat feature, establish a protocol for asking questions by virtually raising their hand, polls and breakout rooms. The CITL team would be happy to visit with you about the logistics of the various Zoom features.

  • Rubrics can be a great way to expedite the grading process, help you grade objectively and consistently, and clearly communicate your expectations to students. In Blackboard you can add a rubric for any graded assignment, blog, Wiki, journal or discussion post and, if you complete the rubric as you grade, the score will save automatically to your Blackboard gradebook. If you would like help creating a rubric, please contact us at CITL.
  • As you think about the assignments you’d like to utilize in your online course, be sure your assessments are truly measuring your intended learning objectives. Consider incorporating multi-media assignments, group projects and other creative ways to have students demonstrate their learning.
  • Testing in an online course can bring a new set of challenges than we might be used to in a traditional face-to-face course. As you design summative assessments, it’s important to think through issues related to academic integrity and be mindful of how you’re designing your tests. If it fits with your course learning outcomes, perhaps you might want to try an alternative assignment or series of assignments instead of the traditional exam scheme. For additional information on alternative assignments and options for online testing, please see Online Testing and Assessment.

  • You can record and post video lectures for your course with Mediasite or, if you are hosting synchronous sessions, Zoom. As you create your videos, please consider the following recommendations:

  • Chunk your contentinto shorter videos rather than posting one long lecture session. Students are more likely to remain engaged (and watch) videos that are no longer than 10 minutes. A series of short videos also helps you to keep the content focused and will be easier for students to access again if they are unclear on a concept and want to re-watch. Here is an example of a chunked lecture video by David DiMeo from the Potter College of Arts & Letters. If you are interested in creating a lecture video with the lightboard utilized by Dr. DiMeo, please email citl@wku.edu.

  • Review/edit your videos both for content and production quality. Small mistakes and brief appearances of pets or family members can be fine, students don’t expect you to produce studio level videos, just be sure that the sound and picture are clear.

  • Just as you would incorporate different voices through guest lectures and videos in a face-to-face course, consider supplementing your lecture videos with videos or appropriate recordings from other speakers and sources. As you select material to include, be sure that you are including a diverse and inclusive sampling of authors.

  • Remember that anything you post online should be accessible to all students. Videos should be captioned or include a transcript and documents should be compatible with screen readers.



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 Last Modified 1/6/21