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Quick Tips for Teaching Online: 9 Tried-and-Trusted Strategies for Quality Online Delivery (part 3)

Image depicting a pair of glasses and a phone resting on a computer keyboard.
Photo by Apex 360 from Pexels
Fri, 02 Oct 2020

By Darina Slattery.

Reading time: ~4 minutes.

Featured Image Source: Photo by Apex 360 from Pexels

 

In Monday’s blog posting, I spoke about the importance of using tools consistently and effectively (#1), when you should use synchronous tools (#2), and how you might engage students on a regular basis (#3).

On Wednesday, I suggested breaking larger groups into smaller groups (#4), the kinds of guidance and supplementary resources you can offer your online students (#5), and the importance of logging in every day to establish teaching presence (#6).

Here are my final three strategies:

7. Be clear about expectations.

8. Avoid information overload.

9. Organise your forums.

 

7. Be clear about expectations.

Related to strategy #5, I make it clear to students in week 1 that I only check Sulis on weekdays and during normal working hours (regardless of weekend assignment deadlines) and that it may take up to 48 hours for me to respond. That said, I usually reply much sooner, but as other commitments can easily get in the way, it is important not to over-commit.

8. Avoid information overload.

Just because we can link to lots of online resources, doesn’t mean we should. Many of us struggle with this in our regular on-campus teaching, but there is an even greater risk of overload when teaching online. We need to be reasonable about what students can do, given that they’re likely to also have home and work commitments, and possibly limited access to devices. One strategy is to separate ‘recommended reading’ from ‘additional reading’, but I find that online students still feel under pressure to read everything (in fact, they often comment on this in the end-of-year evaluations). So try to be selective about the resources you recommend.

9. Organise your forums.

Having an instructional design background, I am a firm believer in structured course materials. That structure extends to my discussion forums too, where I typically create two forums:

     a) An ‘E-tivities’ forum, for the graded module activities. This is where students read the e-tivity descriptions and post their responses.

     b) A ‘General Q&A’ forum, where students ask questions about the module. In this forum, I post the information about how to respond to forum postings, information about netiquette, and how to disable email notifications (see strategy #5) and I create separate topics for every graded assignment (including e-tivities), so students can ask questions about those assignments without cluttering up the other forum where they are supposed to post their e-tivity responses.

A clear forum structure signals to students that you acknowledge they might have questions about specific assignments, as well as ‘random’ questions, but it also directs them to post them in the correct place. Providing a little description under each forum name also makes it clear what they should do, and where. You can see extracts from my forums in figure 4.

Example forum structure on Darina Slattery's Sulis site.
Figure 4: Example forum structure [source: Darina Slattery’s Sulis sites].

Concluding remarks

It has been a tumultuous six months for everyone. Gilly Salmon talks (2011) about learning taking place in leaps and bounds and I think that’s a good way to describe what most people experienced as they moved from emergency remote teaching to more carefully-considered blended teaching. While I hope this week’s postings help with that transition, I don’t recommend trying to do everything at once!

The EDTL approach for programmes reminds us to reflect on the emergency pivot: what worked well and what didn’t. If most of your approach worked well in the Spring semester, then focus your energies on the aspects that need to be improved, rather than on trying out new technologies just because they are now available to you. You might also like take a look at the analytics that are available in your Sulis sites, to find out how students interacted with the various resources.

Keep an eye out for the next LTF blog post in our blog series for more Quick Tips for Teaching Online

About the contributor

Darina Slattery is a lecturer in instructional design and online course development at UL. Her research interests include best practice in online education, professional development for online teachers, virtual teams, learning analytics, and online collaboration. She has been facilitating professional development initiatives for colleagues, in the form of DUO workshops, since 2014. She is an active member of the UL Learning Technology Forum (LTF) and the Effective Technology Support (ETS) Working Group.

References:

EDTL (2020) ‘The EDTL approach’ [online], available: https://edtl.blog/the-edtl-approach/ [date last accessed: 22nd September 2020]. 

Nagel, Lynette, and Kotzé, T. G. (2010) ‘Supersizing e-learning: What a CoI survey reveals about teaching presence in a large online class’, The Internet and Higher Education, 13 (1-2), pp. 45-51. 

Salmon, G. (2011) E-moderating: The key to teaching and learning online (3rd ed.). New York: Routledge. 

Slattery, D. M. (2020) ‘DUO workshop overview’ [online], available: https://staff.ul.ie/slatteryd/sites/default/files//DUO_Workshop_Overview.pdf [date last accessed: 22nd September 2020].