Teaching online guidebook

Be an active teacher

Image by percuss (Texample.net) http://www.texample.net/tikz/examples/author/percusse/Active teaching is important whether you are teaching face to face or online. However, the online environment is more challenging as students can't interact with you in a physical space. (This is why social presence is key to teaching online.)

Active teaching supports the four characteristics of online learning: personal, structured, active, connective.

Use FLO to provide detailed instructions, including time on task and sufficient context and framing through curated resources. Tell the student why are you providing these resources, what they should be looking for as they engage with the material, how are the resources and activities going to help them achieve the learning outcomes.

Structure your teaching to use synchronous sessions for discussion, interaction and application of knowledge. Deliver content prior via short video/audio, and other curated resources. Make activities clearly related to the pre-work.

In your topic, you could use the weekly features 'Key ideas', 'What you need to do this week' and/or 'Recap the key points from last week' as a structure to support your teaching in the topic. These prompts will help you give students a consistent message about learning activities, and guide them to stay on task and actively engaged.


Explore your role

Roles for teachers provides ideas and approaches to teaching online. 'Meddler in the middle' is a role suggested for teachers, but whatever role you choose it is likely to change over the course of the topic – depending on student needs and the online activities you engage in with them. 


Promote social learning

Students can and should learn from others, and there are plenty of tools to facilitate this in a FLO topic (see Tool options - communicate with students). So that students don't become isolated (and therefore at risk of attrition), encourage them to participate in the topic wherever and whenever they can. Relate their participation to assessment and how participation will support them. Thread it throughout your own participation in the topic. Teachers are social learners too! 


Look for 'teachable moments' (a just-in-time approach)

By being socially present in the topic site, you will be able to notice what students need, when they need it. 

  • Is it obvious that students clearly don't understand a concept (this might be a threshold concept or muddy point)?
  • Do a few students seem to have a similar issue/s?

You could use tools such as a forum to directly address these, or even make an announcement (which goes to student email). You might choose to add a resource (self created or link to an external one), or encourage students to find a resource and share with everyone. Your approach will depend on the situation, time factors and your teaching role in that moment. Be aware of student bandwidth and limitations in accessing online (eg if they live in China) when choosing/providing resources.


Be responsive

Listen to student feedback, monitor their progress, and use your learnings to 'shape' the topic from beginning to end, by making sense of what's happening 'behind the scenes'. This might mean providing a resource as a scaffold around a threshold concept or muddy point, or adding a section (eg extra activity) in a week that helps students to find/respond to materials more easily. Be timely – quick to respond to posts, queries, assessment etc.

Be aware of student access limitations and bandwidth, and ensure that they are not disadvantaged. You could:

  • relax or remove activity restrictions or date-based scenarios
  • change assignment deadlines for impacted students rather than waiting for extension requests


Evaluate the topic (ongoing)

By checking on student activity in the topic and using tools such as the Touchpoint survey, you can evaluate as you go. This approach is active and will provide quantitative and qualitative data for future topic development.


What active teaching looks like to a student

  • Welcome and other teacher-created video/s
  • Announcements
  • Regular posts or post responses
  • Prompt feedback on assignments 
  • Just-in-time resources and other support 
  • Participation (in the same activities as students)
  • Listening (eg to feedback)
  • Up-to-date and relevant resources (readings, videos etc)
  • Amendments/adjustments