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Tips for Teaching Online


From the desks of:
Dr. Donna Petherbridge, Amanda Robertson, & Dr. Traci Temple

There are many things to think about when planning and teaching an online course. A lot of what you already know about teaching in a conventional classroom can be transferred to an online environment. We want to share with you four tips we believe will help you begin a successful experience for you and the students in your online course. These tips are based on our own experiences teaching online courses, as well as validated in the literature.

  1. Begin with an orientation to the online course:
    1. Email the class a pre-welcome letter that could include information such as course start date, course URL, technology expectations, textbook info, etc.
    2. Instructions for how to get started and where to find course components (helping the students navigate around your site)
    3. Etiquette expectations—sometimes called “netiquette”
    4. A self-introduction about you
    5. Minimum student preparation and technical skills expected of the student
  2. Communicate with your students:
    1. Communicate early and often during the first two or three weeks of class
    2. Clearly communicate the course-level and module learning objectives
    3. Provide instructions to students on how to meet the learning objectives
    4. Encourage faculty-student and student-faculty social engagement (sharing personal connections such as common research interests, shared personal interests, etc.)
    5. Clearly state the course grading policy and criteria for how students’ work and participation will be evaluated
    6. Provide timely feedback to your students (assignments, quizzes and exams)
  3. Create a timeline and schedule for you and the students:
    1. Include deadlines and milestones for students
    2. Set aside specific time in your calendar to work on the course; conversely, create some space for yourself (e.g. “I don’t check email on Saturday, thus plan accordingly”)
  4. Offer different approaches to learning:
    1. Create a student-student collaborative learning environment that includes individual work and group work
    2. Groupwork tips:
      1. Select the students who will be working together in a group or allow group sign ups by topics
      2. Offer several options for students to facilitate group meetings (Elluminate, TokBox, Second Life, etc.)
      3. Be willing to rearrange groups if they aren’t working well
      4. Wait until around the third week of class to set up groups to allow for drop/adds
    3. Provide different ways for students to learn the materials such as using different forms of media (video, podcasting, pdf files, etc.)

Dahl, J. (2004). Strategies for 100 percent retention: feedback, interaction. Distance Education Report, 8 (16), 1, 6-7.

Hutchins, H. (2003). Instructional immediacy and the seven principles: strategies for facilitating online courses. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, VI (III), Fall 2003. Retrieved November 30, 2009, from

Morris, L.V. & Finnegan, C.L. (2008). Best practices in predicting and encouragaging student persistence and achievement online. Jorunal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory and Practice. 10(1), 55.64.

Resources for teaching online at NCSU:
• For more information about getting started with you online course contact LearnTech by emailing or calling 919-513-7094.
• DELTA workshops,
• DELTA’s website,