Basics When Preparing to Teach Online for the First Time

laptop - teaching online

Teaching a course online for the first time involves thinking about goals for the course, course design, and use of technology. Adapting a course from a traditional face-to-face offering or creating a brand new course online can be intimidating or challenging at first. Fortunately, instructors teaching hybrid and fully online courses at FIU have a range of resources available to set them up for success, including support from an instructional design team. Instructional designers are knowledgeable in the the field of online education, have experience with educational technology, and can provide guidance on best practices in the online environment.

Difference Between Face-to-Face and Online Courses

What makes online courses different from face-to-face classes? The book Online Teaching Survival Guide: Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips includes best practices and tips for preparing educators to teach online. Below are 5 major characteristics used to distinguish between online and campus courses:

  1. Faculty shift to coaching and mentoring – As there are no live lectures, instructor focus shifts to creating short course videos or introductions, building experiences through facilitation, and guiding students through their learning.
  2. Asynchronous meetings – Online activities happen asynchronously since students are not meeting at specific times. This can take the form of reflective discussions, collaborative assignments, and presentations.
  3. More active learners – Learner activity is increased in the online setting with a tendency for students to do more writing, sharing, and reflecting as part of a learning community.
  4. Flexible learning resources and spaces – Students can access the course through computers or mobile devices, deciding when and where their learning will take place. Establishing weekly milestones can help encourage student participation.
  5. Continuous Assessment – With a greater focus on coaching and mentoring, instructors can get to know their students and their work more closely. Assessment in online courses tends to be continuous and often based on community.

Getting Started With an Online Course

Elements of an online course include:

  • syllabus
  • course shell
  • content resources
    (videos, audio, articles, weblinks)
  • teaching guides (such as weekly plans outlined by the instructor of course topics and module requirements)
  • assessments
  • discussions and interactions
  • papers, project, quizzes
  • individual work and reflection
  • course schedule

Consider the course description and objectives by thinking about what students should know after taking the course. Beginning with the end in mind can help with outlining needed material and assignments.

When creating an online course, first:

  • Begin to plan out your course schedule with concepts divided into weekly or module sections.
  • Spread out assignments with reasonable time to provide feedback to students.
  • Prepare drafts of your assessments. Multiple assessment types are recommended such as: discussion posts, assignments, quizzes, and projects.
  • Prepare assignment rubrics

Working with an Instructional Designer

New online faculty often have questions about how to translate their face-to-face course into an online class. When a course has previously been taught in-person, faculty already have many elements of the class complete and are looking for ways to enhance it for online delivery. FIU Online is a “large shop” offering a full-range of services including multimedia, technical, and learning management support, giving faculty access to a range of resources, allowing them to focus on the teaching role rather than worry about the technical aspects of the course.

Instructional designers can help by introducing and providing training to the learning management system and available technology. IDs act as consultants as instructors begin creating the course, available to recommend new tools and different approaches. IDs also serve as guides in helping instructors navigate the resources available when teaching online. Together, online instructors and instructional designers can create engaging learning experiences for students and make the teaching experience more seamless.

Teaching online for the first time can seem like a daunting task. Luckily, FIU Online Instructional Designers are here to partner with you to create quality and engaging courses.


FIU Online Teaching Online Guide: Working with your Instructional Designer

Online Teaching Survival Guide: Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips by Judith Boettcher and Rita-Marie Conrad

Erika Huezo was a Senior Instructional Designer at FIU Online. She joined FIU Online in 2010 as a Course Developer, helping to create an introduction to online teaching course for faculty and assisted with the department’s implementation of the Quality Matters (QM) program standards. Erika worked closely with faculty to create engaging learning environments and kept current with instructional theories, tools, and trends.

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