Elements of Effective Online Courses

Lectures are a very common way for teachers to present information to students.

Experienced teachers can utilize lectures very effectively to present information and to keep students engaged (Washington University, 2009. Creative Commons Attribution).

With the changing face of education instructors are looking at the need to deliver courses on-line to accommodate the diverse schedules of students looking to learn.

One issue, as pointed out by Dr. Beaudin, is that today there is an effort to emphasize that teachers teach students and not just content. The task thus becomes how to deliver materials that engage the students as well as getting feedback to know if the students are understanding the materials. With the delivery of web based learning opportunities there needs to be a variety of delivery methods and mechanisms for group participation.

Kambam, 2015, describes key elements of good course design such as simplicity, logical, and clearly indicating the key concepts as a part of this design.

Wilson, et. al., 2014 emphasize that supporting students participating in on-line learning courses including ensuring they have comfort with the unique software for distance education and convenient ways to interact with the instructor should be provided.

Boettcher and Conrad, 2010, describe best practices for teaching online. They suggest the instructor being present, supportive, set clear expectations in a variety of groups, inviting discussion and getting feedback from participants.

In terms of presenting materials:

Actual instruction – the personality of the instructor and their teaching style can be relayed even through remote instruction. Instructors may add humor in distance education course which can take a variety of forms and leads to increased attention (Eskey, M., 2010) just as they would in a classroom environment. During instruction quick quizzes may be given to test the students understanding of the material and indicate what to focus on.

Text materials, such as handouts for a class, may be shared online quickly and easily.

“Talking head” Web conferencing and sharing PowerPoint materials can be delivered with programs like Cisco Webex or Zoom where participants see and hear the instructor, the materials, and the instructor can see and hear the participants.

Video movies may be created and shared through file sharing or links to sites like YouTube or Vimeo.

Unique software programs afford a broad spectrum of collaborative opportunities. Examples are, Coogle which provides an opportunity for students to collaboratively create a mind map of a particular topic.  Flipgrid provides an interesting way for participants to introduce themselves to the group.

While there are many programs that can be utilized in on-line learning, the idea of getting feedback from participants and growing the instructional process is a worthy goal. Instructors will need to adjust their teaching style to meet the needs of the students. As technology changes, utilizing new hardware software such as considering using Virtual Reality may be a direction technology drives the educational process.


Washington University, 2009. Creative Commons Attribution. Kalpana Kambam, 2015

Wilson, B., Linder, G. & VanBerschot, J. 2014. Co-Teaching an Online Action Research Class. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, Volume 40, Issue 2

Boettcher and Conrad 2010 best practices for teaching online. https://www.saddleback.edu/uploads/goe/ten_best_practices_for_teaching_online.pdf

Michael T. Eskey PhD, 2010. https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/humor-in-online-classrooms-new-ways-to-learn-and-laugh/

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