Guest Contributors: Sande Johnson, Worth Hawes, and Deborah Hoffman, Academic Services Consultants, Custom Learning at Cengage Learning.

Are you considering teaching a course online for the first time? In this post, contributors Sande Johnson, Worth Hawes, and Deborah Hoffman share some first steps to consider when moving toward the online teaching environment. Have questions about moving a course online, or tips to share from your own experience? Include them in the comments section below!

So you’ve decided to give this online teaching thing your ole college best. It really doesn’t have to be as difficult as you might think, but you do have to start somewhere. So start simple and let the technology slowly reveal to you how it best assists your teaching and your students’ learning. There’s plenty of time for the online environment to transform your approach to teaching in general, but to get started, try not to get waylaid by the all-too-overhyped clamor around the promises of online education and how it’s going to change the world. You might try first what some call a “hybrid approach”—use the online tools to supplement or enhance your on-ground (read: face to face) course(s). Here are some modest first steps for getting your feet wet with online teaching—even while you’re teaching on ground:

  1. First off, get familiar with your local resources. Contact the Learning Management System (LMS) support team on your campus and ask them for a quick tutorial on how to use the LMS your school has chosen.
  2. Post your syllabus on your institution’s LMS. If you can hyperlink any suggested online readings directly from the digital syllabus, that’s even better.
  3. Have your students submit a writing assignment via the LMS or e-mail. (You may already be doing this. See, you’re already teaching online and didn’t know it!)
  4. If you regularly use PowerPoint slides in your teaching, post them in your course for your students’ perusal.
  5. Require your students to conduct two discussions this semester on your LMS’s discussion board.  Online discussions—both those required and those started by the students–are staples of online learning.   You can build these online discussions from conversations started in class or you can develop entirely new prompts for discussion. (Be sure to tell your students that their responses need to be substantive and that they should reference prior submissions.)
  6. Have your students complete a few pre-class quizzes on the reading they did for homework; use the LMS grade book to help you identify the concepts on which your students would benefit from further in-class discussion.
  7. Identify some videos that pertain to your learning outcomes and require your students to view those videos via links you’ve placed in your course in the LMS. Have your students answer some relevant questions about those videos using the LMS tools.
  8. Choose a couple of occasions during the semester to conduct online office hours—using either tools in your LMS or via a service like Skype, Facetime, or some other web conferencing tool. (If you’re not sure what’s available, ask your LMS team.)
  9. Commit to talking to three colleagues this semester who have taught online. Ask them to show you their online courses and ask them about what has worked and what hasn’t.
  10. If you’re really feeling ambitious, take a few class sessions to try out the “flipped model”—use a webcam to record a lecture, post it in your online class, require your students to view the lecture before attending class, and then in class have them work on an assignment with their classmates that requires familiarity with your lecture.

Post Author: Heather Mooney.