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Teaching Online: Tips for Instructors

This guide is intended for instructors who are developing online courses.


  • Prepare yourself.  Become over-prepared with the technology you'll need to manage the course, including the course management system (Canvas).  And explore other technologies to supplement and enhance the Canvas course shell.  
  • Get help.  Talk with colleagues who successfully teach online.  Take advantage of campus resources like CELT workshops and in-person support.
  • Create a sense of community, with opportunities for engagement.  Make the effort to personalize the course.  Make sure you have a "presence" as the instructor.  Create short (5 min) introductory videos each week, so students can get to know you.  Convey your enthusiasm for the online environment. Consider having students keep "learning journals" so you can get to know them, too.  Encourage students to share with each other so they can get to know and help each other.
  • Active learning. Consider having frequent short quizzes to reduce procrastination.  Course dialog should be varied, if possible, using different tools and media to keep it interesting.
  • Backward design.  Just as with face-to face courses, develop the learning objectives and evidences first, then create the online lessons to get the students there.
  • Provide help links.  Link to the Writing Center, the Libraries, the Media Depot - whichever resources will be most useful to your students.
  • Control the course pace by opening modules according to your syllabus timeline.
  • Don't be afraid to try something new!  Sometimes it will work, sometimes not.  


  • Don't focus on the obstacles.  Teaching online is not the same as teaching face-to-face and you won't be able to replicate exactly an in-person class.  There are opportunities to online instruction - focus on those!
  • BUT ALSO, just because you're effective in a face-to-face class setting doesn't mean you will be effective online.  You must prepare.
  • You won't "save time" teaching online.  Building and managing an effective online classroom space will take time.
  • Set limits to your work schedule.  Just because students may be online at any time of the day, you don't need to monitor the class discussion continually or respond to student communication at odd hours.
  • You don't need to create everything from scratch.  Re-use content - things you've developed and resources developed by other instructors, librarians, etc. You can find great scholarly content online (but it takes time).
  • Keep next semester in mind!  Don't spend too much time creating videos that are hard to update.  Choose technologies that can be edited easily and re-used.
  • Don't just video your 50-minute lecture and call it good!  Incorporate other visuals to keep content engaging. 
  • Don't add too many new tools initially, especially until you are thoroughly comfortable with them.  Focus on the basics first and then add new tools that have a practical purpose and that you understand well.