Online educators’ recommendations for teaching online

Using both Chickering & Gamson's Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education, and the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework from Garrison, Anderson & Archer, Dunlap and Lowenthal set about to crowdsource a series of best practice recommendations for teaching online from seasoned online educators.

Model for Online Courses Giulia Forsythe CC-BY-NC-SA

What they have come up with is an excellent primer for any would be online educator that builds on the theoretical CoI model with some pragmatic and practical suggestions on how to develop a CoI borne out of years of experience by seasoned and practiced online educators.

The crowdsourcing that Dunlap and Lowenthal undertook was a bit more involved than simply asking on Twitter for recommendations. Dunlap and Lowenthal conducted their crowdsourcing over the course of 2 years, and included a healthy does of face to face crowdsourcing at 7 different professional education conferences to come up with a robust list of best practices. 

When they did their analysis, they discovered 4 prominent themes emerging from the recommendations by the online educators.

  1. Supporting student success (example suggestion: Model what you want from students (e.g., model how to share and interact in a discussion forum, provide exemplars of projects and other assignments, and engage in think-alouds that illustrate how to read and take notes from primary sources).
  2. Providing clarity and relevance through content structure and presentation (example suggestion: Make everything explicit; say more than you think you need to say.)
  3. Establishing presence to encourage a supportive learning community (example suggestion: Use video to introduce yourself to the class as the instructor. Ask students to do the same.)
  4. Being better prepared and more agile as an educator. (example suggestion: Sometimes you have to leave the LMS and find other technologies that help you better achieve your instructional goals.)

Around these 4 themes, Dunlap and Lowenthal then list the specific strategies and approaches that were suggested to them. If you have never taught an online course before, this is a very good paper filled with practical, classroom tested advice that will provide a good starting point for your journey.

Source: Online educators’ recommendations for teaching online: Crowdsourcing in action, Joanna C. Dunlap & Patrick Lowenthal, Open Praxis, Dec 6, 2017