Centre for Extended Learning (CEL)
East Campus 3 (EC3)
195 Columbia St. W.
Suggestions for successful teaching
A well-designed online course sets the stage for student success, but your role as an instructor is also critical. Many of the same practices for quality teaching in traditional classrooms apply to the online environment.
Review our Open Education Resource called Fostering Engagement: Facilitating Online Courses in Higher Education which was designed for post-secondary instructors and teaching assistants who would like to better understand the critical role of online facilitation in online course delivery and build practical online facilitation skills and strategies that are relevant, effective, and authentic.
Be available for your students from day one
- Plan to log into the the course regularly by adding it to your personal agenda.
- Subscribe to the Ask the Instructor Discussion, so you receive student questions promptly by email. Always respond to students using their @uwaterloo.ca or @edu.uwaterloo.ca email address. If you feel that other students could benefit from the student’s question and its response, post the information to Announcements.
- Refer students to the Communication page in the Course Syllabus. This page sets expectations for communication between you and your students.
- Use Announcements to let students know if you will be away from the course for an extended period.
Generate interest in your course
- Post Announcements weekly, introducing the upcoming weeks’ topics, reminding students how best to progress through the course.
- Post Announcements relating to real world connections to the course.
Provide encouragement and prompt, helpful feedback
- Reach out to students who are struggling in the early days. LEARN allows you to check if students have logged into your course.
- Let students know when they can expect feedback on their assignments in the Dropbox. You can provide your feedback in text or in audio.
- Provide meaningful feedback on students’ work in clear, concise language that students can use for the next time.
- Encourage students to complete the end-of-course evaluation.
Encourage student-to-student interaction
- Monitor student group discussions in the course. A well-designed discussion activity helps students connect with each other intellectually about the course concepts. Don't feel you have to respond or even read each and every post (especially in large enrolment courses), but you should monitor Discussions and comment sparingly towards the end of the discussion period.
Demonstrate respect for your students’ individuality
- Get to know your students by reading their introductory discussion posts. Be sure to tell them something about yourself that you didn't include in the Course Syllabus.
- Respond promptly to students who have registered with the Office of AccessAbility—their success depends on your ability to help with their accommodations.
Get to know LEARN
- If you’re a new online instructor, attend the Online Instructor Orientation workshop at the start of term.
- If you’re a course author, CEL will develop a training plan specifically for your needs.
- Attend one of the Centre for Teaching Excellence's LEARN information sessions.
- Review the LEARNhelp documentation for instructions.
- Email LEARNHelp if you have any questions.
Prepare yourself to teach before the term starts
- If you didn't author your course, spend some time in the course to familiarize yourself with it.
- Contact your CEL Learning Management System/Quality Assurance (LMS/QA) Specialist before the term so that you are prepared to offer the course.
- If you’re a course author, be willing to spend some time with the instructor to give him/her a course orientation.
- Promote/model academic integrity.
- Be sure to review the Course Schedule to make sure it's accurate. Hold students (and yourself) accountable.