This course will become read-only in the near future. Tell us at if that is a problem.

Opt rdgs-Wk 1


Optional Readings for Week 1

Expectations for teaching online

Teaching online is very different from teaching in a face-to-face (f2f) classroom. Many teachers find that teaching online is more intense than teaching f2f, and it often requires more time. Having good online communications skills is very important. Online communication lacks the subtlety that f2f communication has, particularly when trying to convey humor. Individual feedback to students in very important online and can make or break a course. Students often demand timely feedback that makes online teaching much more of an "on call" job that traditional teaching.

Here are some things to expect and tips that will help you and your students in your online class:

  • Online teaching takes a lot of time. Plan accordingly.
  • Set clear expectations for students up-front. You might include information on participation, timeliness, online civility, plagiarism (covered below), etc.
  • Communicate as clearly as possible. If you are saying something intended to be humorous, include emoticons. :)
  • Establish communications protocols. For example, do you want students to use regular email or email through the course? What email address should they use? etc.
  • Establish reasonable turnaround times for feedback and stick to them. For example, you might agree to respond to email within 24 hours and to provide assignment feedback within three days or as posted per assignment. (And remember that weekends count online!)
  • Provide ample and timely feedback to students.

Student access

Particularly in a blended classroom, one concern teachers often have with this is whether students will have adequate access to a computer and a network connection. Considering equity issues is critical. However, there are many ways that students can work on their online coursework. Here are just a few:

  • Many students have cell phones or other mobile devices that they can use to do work.
  • Students can often use parents, or caregivers', siblings', or friends' computers.
  • There are many places that provide public computers and public wireless access that students can use. (If students can get on Facebook, they can get on their online course.) These include the library, McDonalds and other eating establishments, and even truckstops and rest areas.
  • The school library or classroom computers are often open to students outside of regular school hours.
  • Many schools provide mobile devices (laptops, netbooks, iPods, etc.) for check-out to students who don't have other ready access. While there are often administrative concerns about possible theft, breakage, loss, etc., most schools' experience is that students are responsible with this as long as safeguards are put in place.
  • Much online coursework can be done off-line and even off a computer. For example, students can download materials to read or watch off-line or complete writing assignments off-line and then upload their work later.
  • Knowing how your students will be accessing the course outside of school can help you design your course to be most appropriate for those needs.

Another consideration for student work is in terms of productivity tools. Some student devices won't have Microsoft Office installed, so you will need to offer options. Below are a few choices. It may be convenient to standardize on one of these tools and provide students with a link to it.

  • Google Docs
    Free and online; can be accessed from a wide variety of devices, including mobile ones. This tool makes document management and paperless grading very simple and can really improve student engagement and interaction. (Also has a school version that makes administration easier.)
  • Zoho
    Free and online; not used as widely as Google Docs
  • LibreOffice (formerly known as Open Office)
    Free and open source; installed to local device (better off-line support)

Task Discussion

  • karen   Sept. 29, 2011, 11:59 a.m.

    On the subject of communications, I was looking at an online class the other day that made me reflect on how important words. (The course had some what I thought was some unfortunately negative language aimed at students.)

    I think that a supportive environment and high expectations are so important.

    How do you carry that over into an onine environment, and what effect does it have on students?

  • Anonym   Sept. 21, 2011, 1:38 p.m.



    In my opinion the biggest disadvantage is student access and students with special needs. 

                In the music theory class I teach requires students to print out rhythm staff paper answer the question and scan it into the computer.  Once they scan it into the computer they need to upload the answer so I am able to see their answer.  The major problem I encounter is the fact that students do not know how to use a scanner and download answers into the software proprietary system.  Not all students have a scanner so I ended up coming up with a solution which instead of scanning their project into the computer they take a picture of it with their cell phone or a digital camera and ends up emailing it me as an attachment.  For students who don’t have a digital camera or a phone that takes pictures I created a painting program they can use instead with the free paint program that comes with Windows. 

                 The other disadvantage is working with students with special needs.  I love online learning and I think that it is an option for most students.  The students that have learning disabilities often struggle because they are unable to read the material.  If they are unable to read the material they are going to have difficultly learning the material.  I have received answers to questions that are correct but the grammar is so wrong it takes away from what they are answering.  I am not an English teacher and am not the best writer, but some of my high school students forget capitols at the beginning of sentences and periods at the end of the sentences.  By high school students should at least know the basics of writing.  I have messaged those students and asked them to be more aware of what they are writing and to proof read their grammar.  I think every student should be given a chance to take online classes and to be able to learn, however students need to be at least at their instructional level.  If students are in way over their heads  they will end up failing and not learning anything.  So if you have a 9th grader on a 5thgrade reading level there needs to be either an aid with them to help them read, in a 5thgrade class as an 9thgrader, or the online teacher needs to re-write the material or have an alternative lesson for the student in order for them to learn.

  • karen   Sept. 28, 2011, 7:54 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Anonym   Sept. 21, 2011, 1:38 p.m.


    With regards to special needs students, I have actually found online learning to benefit them, sometimes more than more mainstream students (if there is such a thing). The ability to differentiate online for special needs, different learning styles, etc. is something that is very hard to do in f2f classrooms with 30-40+ kids. Online, though, we do things like include audio, video, different language levels, remedial or enrichment activities, etc. and allowing students to respond in multiple ways as well. I don't know how you can do that much in a f2f environment.

    In terms of students having bad writing habits, it is a big problem -- but no worse online than f2f in my experience.

    The level issues is so huge in our schools. If we were serious about not leaving any child behind, we would group students by their needs, not by age my opinion, more flexible grade level (or other organizational) groupings is the solution to this. Do you think schools could ever get there? Are there other ways to deal with this?

    Online differentiation seems lik e a possible first step.