One key to a successful online course is instructors’ ability to manage their online classroom. Yet many online instructors don’t realize that the best practices in traditional environments should not be discarded simply because the participants are interacting online. The students still need to be managed as a cohesive group of learners.
In an Edutopia article, Heather Wolpert-Gawron provided suggestions for successfully managing online classes. The article was written with a K12 audience in mind. However, her suggestions can be used in a higher education environment as well. Heather’s suggestions for successfully managing your online class are:
- Build an engaging online environment. Build an online environment where students want to come back week-after-week.
- Build community. By building community right from the get-go and encouraging it throughout the course of the class, you’ll save yourself from some issues later on.
- Curate answers in an organized way. Find ways to curate resources and responses to questions so that participants can find them easily. Consider a Q&A discussion forum or develop FAQs.
- Be present. Make sure students know you are present in the course.
- Establish norms for office hours and video conferencing. Have a dress code when meeting virtually (e.g., no pajamas if you are participating via webcam). How should students ask questions without interrupting the current speaker?
- Don’t group randomly. Create group assignments where students can self-enroll and other assignments where students are randomly assigned to groups.
- Teach about plagiarism. Use strategies to ensure the student’s work is original or cited.
- Don’t shy away from difficult conversations. Stay on top of issues as they arise.
- Use various means to contact participants. Contact small groups of students and also the whole class routinely, but know when it’s time to do a behind-the-scenes intervention and email a participant directly.
For more details on Heather's suggestions for online classroom management, you should read this Extending Classroom Management Online article.
Additionally, check out these CAT FooD blog posts related to online teaching: