Are You Ready to Teach Online?

Is teaching online as easy as posting your course notes on the Web?

Not quite. There will be many issues to consider. For instance, do you need to change your teaching style and strategies in order to be successful teaching online or web-enhancing your classes, and how do you create online content and manage your virtual classroom environment?

Is an online course for you?

The following comprehensive self-assessment questionnaire from Foothill College will help students figure out whether they have the study skills and technical skils to be a sucessful online student:


Instructor characteristics

Start your self-assessment by looking over this list of instructor characteristics that some feel are necessary to be successful teaching online:

  • Enthusiasm for the subject
  • Flexibility in teaching methods and approaches
  • Experienced in teaching
  • Good course organization
  • Effective communication skills with students
  • Comfortable with technology
  • Enjoys writing
  • Highly responsive to students, provides timely feedback
  • Good time management skills


Assess your readiness to teach an online course

First, consider your preparation to deal with online teaching strategies:

  • First of all, you should be comfortable with your basic knowledge of the online teaching environment and how you can facilitate high quality educational experiences for your students even though you do not see them face-to-face.
  • You should understand how to develop online communities, how to facilitate communication and collaboration, how to structure your course to help students stay on task and committed to achieving the objectives of the course, and how to interact with them through this new medium.

Use this checklist to develop strategies for how you plan to:

Restructure your current course so that it will be successful in an online learning environment.
This can mean anything from some simple modifications to the content and materials, to adjusting assignments and projects, or a complete reworking of how you present information and how your students interact with the course content and with you. 
Be a real person to your students.
Online and independent study are not the same thing and students still want and need regular contact and input from the instructor. Some students will feel lost in this mostly self-directed environment and they need to know you are there to help them.  Other students, not having a regular lecture to prompt them, fall behind on assignments at times. Short, friendly e-mail notes tend to promote student success. Along with having an office hour for real-time visits and phone calls you should also check your e-mail messages daily or as often as possible and communicate in a friendly manner. You also need to have a presence on the discussion boards.
Manage individual student progress according to different preferences and varied schedules.
To teach successfully online, you need to be comfortable with some additional flexibility in how students may progress through the course materials. The very essence of hypertext means that students can choose which links to access according to their own needs and interests. Communication with students is mainly asynchronous which means students will be reading messages and discussing things at different times. It is up to each instructor whether students are allowed to pace themselves or whether everyone needs to stay on a similar schedule, at least for some parts of the class.

Adapted from Online Teaching Institute at American River College, developed by Dr. Marsha Leeman-Conley

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