Teaching online requires many of the same skills and techniques
instructors use in traditional classes, but there are some differences.
In an online course, students access the course materials over the Web
at any time of day or night. Often much of the information students acquire
in the course comes from the class textbook (if one is assigned) and
other readings, along with what they get from library research, Internet
resources, CD-ROMs, and other resources.
Most importantly, students in an online course depend on
conferencing software, email, and other asynchronous modes of communication
for the interaction they have with each other and with the instructor.
This interaction is the core of the course. In an online course, students
cannot simply raise their hand to ask a question as they would in a classroom.
Email and conferencing software more than make up for this, since having
to type out a question forces more reflection before posting it. In addition,
thanks to the flexibility of the Web, students will never miss vital
class discussions. They can log on and access class materials and discussions
at virtually any time of day. Finally, the potential for collaborative
work and small-group discussions among students who may never meet face-to-face
is what makes Web-based courses so exciting and so powerful an educational
How does this all come together in practice? Here's a step
by step example of what happens accompanied by a figure to illustrate
the concepts being discussed:
Students enroll in your online course(s) via your school's
Students receive their usernames and passwords
allowing them access to the course materials. They also purchase
the textbook (if required) and other materials from the college bookstore
or other source.
Each week, for the duration of the course, the instructor
assigns units and materials from the course Web site, readings from
the textbook and other print materials, writing assignments, group
projects, and other activities. Students work on their own time, going
over the online course material from any personal computer with Web
access, whether it's at school, at home, at work, or in the library.
They submit completed assignments via email.
Students communicate electronically with each other
and the instructor several times a week. Of course, email, voicemail,
fax, and telephone are also viable means of communication, but the
heart of an asynchronous Web-based course will take place in the
online discussion room. Instructors use many
strategies to promote communication online which help ensure student
participation and achieve maximum effectiveness in online discussions.
At appropriate times the instructor tests student retention
of the material. Many Web-based courses have short online Self-Tests
for each unit that students use to evaluate their own progress. Also,
many textbook companies provide accompanying web quizzes as ancillary
materials to the text. Usually an instructor will give mid-term and
final exams and/or assign projects. Depending on the school's examination
policies, the instructor may need to make suitable arrangements for
issuing and proctoring these exams.
Students are assessed and graded on a combination
of factors test/quiz scores, individual and group project
grades, homework, participation in class discussions, etc.