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Online Teaching Tips

1. Communicate early and often.

2. Be present daily.

3. Be flexible.

Now that you have transitioned to moving your course materials online, we wanted to post three main areas to concentrate on for for teaching online. We believe these will provide you with practical strategies that you can use on a daily basis for the remainder of the semester and beyond.

For More InformationIn addition to reading the tips below,  view TLCs Tips for Teaching Online (Length: 46: 20).

1. Communicate early and often.

Send "welcome back" email

If you have not already, send a “welcome back” email to your students to let them know what is happening with the course, how to access the course in eCampus, and how/when you will be in contact.

For More InformationReference (docx) a welcome back email template you can use to reach out to students.

Post "start here" announcement

Similar to your welcome back email (but located in eCampus), we recommend that you post a "start here" announcement on the first day back so that the students have a starting/entry point. We recommend that this announcement has the phrase "Start Here" somewhere in the title of the announcement so that the students know where to go to begin the course (Example: "Start Here! Welcome back to [course name]").

The announcement could repeat some of the information from the "welcome back" email, but it should be more focused on how the students can get started with the course. For example, what will you be covering this week, when are virtual office hours, where in eCampus can they find their materials, what changes (if any) to the syllabus have been made, how they can reach you, what the assignments and due dates are (and set expectations for communication turn-around times), and other housekeeping reminders that you need to tell them.

Announcements can be set to automatically be sent to student emails.

For More Information Reference the Blackboard page about Creating Announcements.

Post weekly announcements

Develop a clear structure to help students know where to find materials and what they need to do. One way in which you can do this is by posting weekly announcements. Once a week (preferably on the same day at the beginning of each week) we recommend that you post overview announcements telling your students what you plan to cover and remind them of upcoming assignments and due dates. If you are in Week 2 or beyond, the weekly announcements can also be used to wrap up course discussions or topics from the week before.

In addition to overviews and wrap ups, announcements are a great way to link out to "spur of the moment” relevant articles or videos related to your weekly topics (or the course in general). It’s a great way to keep in touch and keep content current “on the fly.”

Hold virtual office hours

Maintain regular virtual office hours for your students and communicate those hours via announcements. Provide alternatives and archives for those who cannot meet in live sessions.

For More InformationReference our page about Real-time Interaction (Synchronous).

2. Be present daily.

Monitor discussion forums and emails

Log into the course at least once per business day to monitor email and discussion forums. If you cannot provide a detailed response within one business day, it is good practice to respond to the student within one business day to let them know when you will provide them a more detailed response.

For More InformationReference the Blackboard page on discussions.

Provide timely and meaningful feedback

Over the next several weeks, be careful not to over-plan graded assignments. Anticipate student questions and be sure to have clear and detailed instructions. Focus on quality, not quantity. Communicate to your students, in advance, when you will grade and return all assignments and exams. In addition, provide models of exemplary work to make expectations clear. (All the while, using and keeping your eCampus gradebooks up to date.)

As a general rule of thumb, it seems reasonable to expect that students will receive their grades, including feedback, within one week of submitting an assignment. If you anticipate that it will take longer than usual to return student work, it is best to inform them in advance when their grades and feedback will be available. You have ideal teachable moments when providing feedback on student work. Be specific by mentioning the items that need more work and how can they improve the quality of their work. Be aware of use of tone in written communications. 

For More InformationReference the Blackboard page on Grading.

Monitor student activity

This is a turbulent time for all. Reach out to students via email and/or phone calls if you are not seeing them log in, if they are not participating or submitting assignments, or if they are performing poorly. There are many resources available to students to get them the help they need, from tutoring to mental health. Identify ways to keep your students engaged and prevent isolation. 

For More InformationReference Blackboard's page about the Performance Dashboard.

For More InformationHere is information about the services available to online students.

For More InformationHere is information about the Academic Policy Changes that are in place.

3. Be flexible.

Be flexible with deadlines

Some students lack consistent technology access or have poor connectivity. Provide varied communication opportunities, flexible deadlines, and alternative assessments to help meet their situations.

Assess what’s working, and change as needed

There may be times when the teaching approach you first attempt may not work as you had imagined. Be flexible with yourself and the situation and try again with a different approach. Think about ways to bring your teaching style and "human side" into the online environment. Inform your students of any changes via announcements or email. 

Is Your Course at WVU Health Sciences?

If you are at WVU Health Sciences Center and not using eCampus, visit SOLE Support's HSC Contingency Planning and Preparedness information.