Teaching Courses in the Online Format

The outbreak of COVID-19 has forced schools to close and forced instructors to rethink how to teach. We are in a transformative period in education. We are experiencing a paradigm shift on how we will educate the next generation. For generations, courses were taught face-to-face. Soon, courses might be exclusively taught online.

I taught face-to-face courses for many years and then transitioned to teaching courses online. When schools cancelled their classes due to the COVID-19 outbreak, my former colleagues asked for my advice on how to teach their courses online. My four questions to them were these: How would you show presence in the course? What content would be provided? How would you engage the students? How would you assess the students?

To the instructor, I say, first, take a deep breath.  Look on the bright side: You, the instructor, are an expert on the subject; you know what the students need to know. Technology is readily available. Think of this as an adventure from which you will gain experience in a new dimension, and learn and grow, and use your untapped creativity. Remember the end goal is the continuance of student learning during this disruption, and the completion of whatever pathway they were on.  You, will serve your students by helping them keep up the P.A.C.E.  Below, I provide a few tips about how you can enhance student learning, by showing Presence in the course, Assessing student learning of the Content, and helping our students achieve Excellence in the face of this national emergency.


Presence matters.  Students need to know that you are in the course. Student -faculty connection is an important part of student achievement. We know that emotion and cognition are entangled. A daily mix of announcements, messages, or personal clips, on a variety of topics, readily achieve this goal. You can easily connect with students when you speak to them on their level.  They will feel that you are there on the journey with them.


Students need to demonstrate they have consumed the content. How will you know? This can be tricky.  This is where you need to be creative. You are operating in a different dimension now. My classes include a mixture of automated quizzes and homework questions to test their knowledge of what was being discussed in class or in the readings.


Make sure your course is interactive and interesting to engage your students and keep them wanting more. Be sure your lesson plan matches the syllabus so there’s no confusion, either. Allow for student choice topics and assignments, like picking to discuss current events. Mix it up. Students tend to participate and learn better when they have a choice or option. Find vlogs, videos, and websites that spark creative discussions. Use the free resources available to you via your institutions such as open educational resources, the library, career center, etc.


When your course outline falls into place, everything else does, too. By creating interactive content, putting a successful assessment system in place, and being supportive of your students, you and your students can both succeed.