Faculty Guide - Teaching Online

Teaching classes online requires a very different approach than teaching in a face-to-face setting. This page will cover, very briefly, the expectations and philosophy of online teaching that is a part of the Department of Social Sciences.

For students to be successful in online courses (please apply this to any hybrid classes as well)...they need to have certain characteristics (or develop them):

___Be open minded about sharing life, work, and educational experiences as part of the learning process
___Be able to communicate through writing
___Be motivated and self-disciplined
___Be willing to "speak up" if problems arise
___Be willing and able to commit to 4-15 hours per week per course
___Be able to meet the minimum requirements for the program
___Accept critical thinking and decision making as part of the learning process
___Have access to a computer and connection to the Internet
___Be able to think ideas through before responding
___Feel that high quality learning can take place without going to a traditional classroom


Faculty also need to possess specific characteristics and skills to successfully facilitate an online learning experience:

___Facilitators in the online arena are generally considered to be "clinical". That is they have a broad base of life experiences in addition to academic credentials
___The personality of the facilitator should demonstrate the characteristics of openness, concern, flexibility, and sincerity
___A successful online facilitator should feel comfortable communicating in writing
___The person should be able to accept the value of facilitating learning as equal to traditional models.
___The person should be able to subscribe to the value of introducing critical thinking into the learning process
___They should have the appropriate credentials to teach the subject matter
___They should be experienced and well trained in online learning experiences

What students should expect from their online instructors includes:

___create a learning environment that utilizes life, work, and educational experiences as key elements in the learning process
___present the curriculum in a manner that allows the student to easily translate theories into applications
___should provide the proper tools to transcribe theory into practice
___provide the opportunity for every student to improve until the learning experience comes to an end
___provide reasonable accommodations for the students' needs and desires
___solicit feedback from the students
___concerned about student success
___keep students aware as to where they stand in respect to the course evaluation process
___timely and quality feedback on discussions, homework, quizzes
___little to no lecturing online (marginal results)
___no tests requiring memorization, case analysis would be more appropriate
___treated politely and with respect
___should be online every day (5-7 days per week)

Creating Content in an Online Class

Similar to face-to-face classes' use of Blackboard, you will create all your online content in the Content folder in the Blackboard course.

ORGANIZATION is key for your students' success. You must organize your material into sub-folder and such in a way that is logical and provides students with an easy way to navigate through your material (no one should have too much difficulty trying to FIND what you have posted). If everything gets posted into the content folder then it is easier to find it!

UP FRONT and ALWAYS ON...these terms refer to the need to have the entire course developed and designed BEFORE class begins (or as soon as possible). In addition, ALL material must be visible...DO NOT HIDE THINGS to reveal them later in the course. To feel secure online students need to see the whole layout of the class at the beginning.

Technology and Content

Having access to the Web and all the tools in Blackboard can make for some fun and creative time in the creation of online content. However, keep in mind the following Murphy's Laws:

Never trust modern technology. Trust it only when it is old technology.

The more technologically advanced the design, the more likely it will fail.

I don't write these to be a cinic...but I do know that a well designed and written set of instructions with clear expectations will trump a complex activity involving downloading software to watch a video while interacting with an avatar every time!

Do not put things into your course because they are "neat" or "cool"...put things into your course because they help your students learn.

Also, only engage in activities and tools within Blackboard that you really understand. Your students are trusting that you know what you are doing. If you are going to experiment with a new method or new materials, make them ungraded activities until YOU master them. Once you master them you can teach your students how to master them.

Using Discussions

In addition to the standard discussions that are a part of the Template, you should be developing discussion boards and topics at least once per week. Not all content lends itself to a "Discussion" format so you don't always need a discussion. Create discussions that meet specific learning outcomes that you are trying to accomplish. Create discussions that would mimic discussions in your face-to-face classes.

Do not create discussions that entail questions or prompts where there is only ONE correct answer...the point of a discussion is to DISCUSS...limit the use of discussions to topics that generate multiple perspectives and critical thinking.

This aspect of your online class should be the "Class Participation" one...there is a simple grading rubric built into the template that you can use for grading participation in online discussions.


While it is not expected that you are available 24/7, the course is. So, students will communicate with you at all times of the day. First, in your syllabus or policies (or in an announcement) be clear as to when you will be available in the class...you can even set office hours.

However, in order to create a sense of community and immediacy (factors that have been associated with some learning outcomes and with student satisfaction) you need to abide by the following expectations.

___Faculty must actively participate in the online discussions. This means reading and posting encouraging and challenging comments in each discussion several times per week.
___You must reply to an message (email) from your student within 24 hours.
___Comments in specific discussion boards such as the Technical Questions should be replied to ASAP (You are responsible for providing SOME level of technical support in your class.
___Most tests or quizzes should be graded within 7 days of the due date
___Most small written assignments should be graded within 7 days of the due date (longer writing assignments can take more time, but you should post an announcement in the class as to when they should expect their grades).