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Best practices of online teaching that will improve your online course design this Fall

Due to Covid 19, almost every aspect of our lives and communities depends as never before on the ability to connect online. Remote teaching and learning, virtual classrooms, online course design are creating a new normal. 

When countries around the world one by one started to close shops and museums, universities knew they were going towards the same fate. When the time came, universities and colleges had to face empty classrooms but packed online Zoom calls: digitalization of the classroom had finally arrived. While finding a way to let students have exams from home, hindering as less as possible the quality of the education provided.

Online education in its various forms can be an incredibly powerful tool to enhance it, by engaging students and giving them tools to work hand-on while building their knowledge.

We cannot say this revolution has been completely successful. The culture about online education has never been a friendly one, to say the least. So much that, around the world, students are threatening to uphold their fees because they feel they are not getting the education they paid for. These threats are echoed by the well-known idea that nothing can replace a teacher and human interaction. And this is true: nothing should. Not completely, at least.

Indeed, online education in its various forms can be an incredibly powerful tool to enhance it [1], by engaging students and giving them tools to work hand-on while building their knowledge. While many fully online courses have been proven a valid way to boost learning, humans and technology can and must cohesist by designing and implementing meaningful online learning activities.

Teachers, colleges, and universities now can (and also have to) provide better (meaning: great) online education, for a simple reason: students expect it. The hard truth is that excuses about the difficulty and inability of implementing online learning have been shattered like a house of cards from the COVID-19 situation. The good news is that if colleges can make it during a pandemic, they can also make it in normal times. With the right help.

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Best practices for smooth sailing with online education this Fall 2020

Give value to your teachers, have a great online support, and use the experts you already have.

For the institutions:

  • Teachers are still the teachers - One thing that we want to make clear is that without teachers there would not be learning. Much of the frowning about online learning is given by the fact that teachers, pedagogists, and parents alike fear an educational world without human interaction. On the opposite, a work must be done to merge in-person education with online learning, for example in the context of a Hyflex design.
  • Have good online support - Some students might feel really good about studying online. Others could feel overwhelmed. Some have fast home wi-fi. Others a 10-years old laptop. The bottom line, a plethora of problems might arise when online learning is implemented. To avoid students feeling left behind from day one, try to take these steps:
  • Communication - During Summer, explain what changes students will get through, which technology will be used, how they will be evaluated, and what the minimum technological requirements are
  • Instructions - Create clear and on spot documentation about accessing and navigating your new services. A tip: if they work with your staff, they will work with your students.
  • Online Support - Make it easy to reach out for help. This means that there should be someone specifically available to help students and staff with their queries about the new online learning experience. You might rely on forums (some are free online, or you can use Google Sites), or specific vendors (TutorMe, for example). 

You already have experts: use them! - In your institution, you have teachers, instructional designers, admins, instructors, librarians, trainers, and so on who might already have experience in overseeing the implementation of online courses. Include them in your projects and listen to their advice!

Moreover, EdTech companies, especially in these times, are eager to help institutions with their transition online: you can greatly benefit from their consultancy.

Learn how your tools work, keep a schedule, keep it simple, help your students through the new online environment, stay human, and make learning sexy.

For the teachers:

  • Keep your schedule - Teaching online does not mean to allow behaviors you would not tolerate in class. Ask for punctuality and be the first to respect it. Show your students you did your job by learning how to use the tools appropriately, and they will thank you for that.
  • Intuitive, intuitive, intuitive - Learning is hard, and doing it online can be stressful. When creating modules and designing your course, remember to keep it simple. Is the rubric clear and easily accessible? Is there a place where students can access the rules for the course? Do you have a document with all the links and resources they need? Knowing where to go to access information will save tons of time and energy to your students.
  • Scaffold your students learning - Do not forget that students might not be able to ask questions as easily as when in class. Anticipate that by breaking complex tasks in smaller parts and by showing your thought processes when explaining your concepts.
  • Give space to humanity - Always remember that you (and your students too) are human. Decide with them if to take a break or just go on with the lecture from start to finish. A nice idea could be blocking 10 minutes before starting the lesson for some informal chatting, discussion about interesting (un)related topics, to sing happy birthday to one of your students along with the class, and so on. Ask them how they are and suggest they always have something nice to drink next to them. Kindness will go a long way.
  • Make it sexy - Last but not least: The Internet can make everything amazing. You should definitely take advantage of the number of videos, images, and free webinars available. Adding videos, images, and so on to your course and giving the opportunity to your students to suggest their own (ideally, during those 10 minutes of informal chat) will associate in your students’ mind the idea that online learning is not only effective but also interesting and fun! If you are using Canvas, for example, you can find many interesting suggestions on their help forum.


Online learning can be hard, but it is definitely worth the effort. It can spark creativity and collaborative learning in incredible ways. Do you have any cool ideas you would like to share with us? Are you curious about what FeedbackFruits can offer to empower your lectures? Contact us and we will be happy to help you as well as give space to your best practices and stories, or subscribe to our newsletter to receive the juiciest updates about educational technology!

Nice to read:

[1] McGee, P., & Reis, A. (2012). Blended course design: A synthesis of best practices. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 16(4), 7-22.

URL: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2020/04/13/students-say-online-classes-arent-what-they-paid Retrieved on 27/05/2020

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