By Kris Bickell
Are you looking to teach an online course for the first time?
Or have you already taught online but are looking for some
to help you become more effective?
The world of online learning is expanding at a rapid pace.
More courses are being offered and more students are enrolling
every semester. And while teaching an online course can be
while sitting at your computer in your pajamas, being an
effective online instructor requires a good deal of practice
Of course, teaching online does take away the face to face
involvement with students. Nothing can take the place of
a student smile after finally understanding a difficult
But online teaching can be even more rewarding than on-campus
teaching, when done well.
What makes an effective online instructor?
While good teaching involves a large number of qualities and
techniques, effective online teaching centers on three main
1) You must be clear about your expectations!
Since students are not sitting right in front of you, it is
extremely important to be very clear. Since you cannot see the
students, you cannot see them sitting with a puzzled look
nodding their head in agreement.
How do you know if you are clear enough?
• Ask the students.
• Carefully evaluate the quality of the work, and how close
finished product matches the instructions.
• Have a colleague read your material before the course
If student evaluations are distributed at the end of the
semester, you can use the feedback to help you improve your
course and teaching techniques – but keep in mind that by then
you can no longer help the students learn what you want them
2) You must communicate frequently…and effectively!
Most students will expect you to be sitting at your computer
whenever they send you a question by email. Of course, that is
not practical, nor is it reasonable. So it is a good idea to
give students a time frame in which you will respond, with
24-48 hours being typical.
And it’s not enough to just communicate frequently. You must
also communicate effectively. While some students (especially
new online students) will want you to “take them by the hand”
through each step, if you already have clearly written
instructions, you can direct them to the instructions.
Keep in mind that most students are not asking you questions
bother you – usually, they just want to make sure they are
what you want them to do. So be understanding, even when you
questions that make you shake your head.
If you get the same questions frequently, it is a good idea to
save the questions – and your responses – to create a
“frequently asked questions” section.
3) You must let your personality shine through!
If students just wanted to read a book, they wouldn’t need you
to read it for them. So, when teaching online, avoid taking
“easy way out” by simply posting a few readings and having
students answer the questions:
• Add a little of your personality to your assignments and
communications (but be careful when using humor, as it is
difficult to convey online).
• Give real life examples that you have learned from being the
subject matter “expert”.
• Create interesting and interactive assignments to help
students really learn the material.
Good teaching, like being good at anything, takes practice.
If you are clear…if you stay in close contact with your
students…and if you create an interesting learning experience,
you will be the online instructor that students want to learn
About The Author: Kris Bickell is the director of distance
learning at a small private University in Connecticut, and an
experienced online instructor. He is also the owner of
Hi-Speed-Internet.com, which offers tips to help you improve
your computer speed. www.hi-speed-internet.com