Skip to main content

I have over 15 years of experience developing college-level courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The following principles and tips from Darby Flower’s Small Teaching Online help to guide much of my work in developing online and hybrid courses. I use my work with Lorin Anderson’s Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy and Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe’s Backward Design along with the Quality Matter Scorecard, Universal Design, and User Experience Design.

Surfacing Backward Design

Principles

Design with the end in mind.
Provide frequent reminders of the principles of content and activities.
Point students back to the core objectives.
Connect the beginning and to the ending of the course.

Tips

Get students working on the final assignment in week 1.
Clarify the purpose of classwork and assessments.
Assign tasks that foster self-reflection on learning as it relates to course objectives.
At the close of the course, have students reflect on where they’ve come so far and what they intend to do to continue their learning.

Guiding Learning Through Engagement

Principles

Break down complex tasks
Notice and respond to cues, questions, uncertainties
Give feedback – frequently

Tips

Create several mini-assignments that become the cumulative assessment in the class.
Create conditional release assignments that guide students’ learning, let them know whether they’ve
mastered the course concepts, and help students discover connections between class activities.
Post summaries of each module’s discussion forums.

Using Media and Technology Tools

Principles

Align your learning outcomes with the tools needed to achieve the result.
First, do no harm by removing any barriers to the technology.
Provide alternative means of access by using principles of Universal Design for Learning.

Tips

Create short, three to five-minute mini-lecture videos.
Include assessments to ensure students are attentively watching your video content.
Build depth and nuance with existing video content and your won informal video announcements and updates.
Select technology tools that solve a problem you have identified and align with the intended outcomes of a given activity or the course as a whole.

Building Community

Principles

Create zones of proximal development
Establish teaching presence
Support social presence

Tips

Require peer-to-peer interactions in your class.
Show up to class as often as you are able.
Before the first day of class, post some information about who you are as a person.
Develop your cultural awareness.
Cultivate and demonstrate genuine caring for your students.

Giving Feedback

Principles

Help students commit to and achieve success
Provide lots of structure
Create a personal touch

Tips

Nudge students in need of a little extra support.
Ask students to commit to a plan of success.
Require students to demonstrate mastery of foundational concepts.
Deliberately build self-efficacy through scaffolded assignment design.

Create Autonomy

Principles

Offer choice to increase learner agency
Foster independence
Hold students accountable for their work

Tips

Provide multiple topics and questions in online discussion prompts.
Let students sign up for groups based on a topic they want to delve into.
Use specifications grading to set high standards for student work.
Use online annotation tools.

Making Connections

Principles

Tap into prior experiences
Provide organizing structure
Foster (unlooked for) connections

Tips

Activate prior knowledge by asking students to take a short pre-test to describe what they know about the course content.
Provide a partial outline or slides for students to print and fill in the missing information.
Assign concept maps to help students see the connections between ideas.
Take advantage of the affordance of online learning to extend learning beyond the confines of your course.
Assign personal learning networks

Develop as an Online Instructor

Principles

Critically examine your online teaching practices
Make time to grow
Seek to energize yourself

Tips

Take an online class or training.
Look for models and examples of best practices.
Add complexity after you build confidence with simple techniques.
Seek quality certification for your online course design, and if possible, your online teaching.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.