Instructional Strategies for Online Courses

A list of resources to help faculty in his endeavor to teach online courses and explore options of new strategies to design new ways of delivering content (e.g. MOOC).

The following list includes free tools and articles that you can use to stay on top of current events, including new strategies to enhance your classroom or online activities.

Teaching Strategies

Blackboard Exemplary Course Program Rubric

      – The Blackboard Exemplary Course Program (ECP) recognizes course creators whose courses demonstrate best practices in four major areas: Course Design, Interaction & Collaboration, Assessment and Learner Support. Courses are evaluated by a peer group of Blackboard clients using the ECP Rubric.

Buenas Prácticas de e-Learning – Esta obra tiene por objetivo ofrecer un análisis detallado sobre el actual estado del e-learning e identificar las futuras tendencias de este sistema de enseñanza. El libro está estructurado en tres partes:

      • Tendencias en materia de e-learning.
      • Modelos de buenas prácticas.
      • Proyectos Europeos.

A lo largo de sus capítulos desarrolla en profundidad temas concretos de gran impacto en el e-learning presente y futuro, como son la normalización y consolidación en el uso de las TIC, las plataformas de teleformación y hermanamiento electrónico, la formación del profesorado y promoción del e-learning, o el e-learning 2.0.

Checklist to assess quality of an online course – This free checklist can be used to help assess the quality of off-the-shelf e-learning course you are currently developing or the quality of e-learning courses on your LMS. Some of the checklist inclusions relate to ‘hygiene’ matters, such as congruence of color, navigation, font, etc. These are important matters as they reduce the cognitive effort required of the learner to interpret what’s on the screen. Other checklist inclusions relate to learning design. Developed by

Developing Course ObjectivesObjectives describe what learners will be able to do at the end of instruction, and they provide clear reasons for teaching. When writing objectives be sure to describe the intended result of instruction rather than the process of instruction itself.

Designing Modules for Learning – The focus of this article is the design of modules which form part of programmes in higher education. In the context of this resource,  a module is considered to be a self contained, formally structured learning experience with a coherent and explicit set of learning outcomes and assessment.

Modules are not developed in isolation, but within a course or programme structure, and the process is informed by the external national qualifications framework and where relevant, professional body requirements. Thus, internal and external factors must be taken into account at the planning stage. In terms of designing modules, we would argue that there is a need for a planned integrated approach to the process with the focus on the learning of the student. We would suggest that academic staff can begin the process not by focusing on the content of the module and how they intend to teach it, rather by focusing on the quality of learning that can be achieved by their students.

Factors Influencing Faculty Use of Technology in Online Instruction: A Case Study – Online education has become a staple of higher education institutions. A survey conducted by the Sloan Foundation, it was found that over two-thirds of higher education institutions were offering a variety of online courses and programs.  According to Allen and Seaman (2008), over 20% of all students took at least one online course in 2006 and this is projected to continue to increase over time.  However, observations at a specific urban university in the mid-west, shows vast variation in terms of faculty who choose to utilize online instructional technologies and a significant lag in desired online development.  With the importance of online instruction, the question was asked was “how can an institution encourage their faculty members to move forward with online instruction?”  This article outlines the answer to that question by determining what factors were found to influence a faculty member’s decision whether or not to integrate online technologies into his or her course.  The factors considered centered on areas such as: 1) perceptions of online instruction, 2) past experience with online technologies, and 3) specific experiences at the university.  These findings, as well as the initial strategies developed to increase faculty participation in online instruction are discussed in the article.

Instructional Design Models and Methods – There are multiple instructional design models and instructional methods that have been developed and implemented over the years. Instructional designers use instructional design models, methods, and theories as a base for online course design and delivery. These instructional methods act as a compass to design for instruction. Some of the most commonly applied and practical instructional design models, instructional methods and theories are discussed.

Instructional Strategies: What Do Online Students Prefer? – This study examined student opinions and preferences regarding the impact of six varied instructional  strategies in  an  online  graduate  curriculum  course.

Instructional Strategies for Online Courses – Effective online instruction depends on learning experiences appropriately designed and facilitated by knowledgeable educators. Because learners have different learning styles or a combination of styles, online educators should design activities that address their modes of learning in order to provide significant experiences for each class participant. In designing online courses, this can best be accomplished by utilizing multiple instructional strategies. Teaching models exist which apply to traditional higher education learning environments, and when designing courses for the online environment, these strategies should be adapted to the new environment.  Read more…

Implementing Kolb’s Learning Styles into Online Distance Education – this article investigates the application of Kolb’s (1984) theory of Experiential Learning to online distance education. Specifically, there are three main objectives: (1) present Kolb’s Learning Style research and Experiential Learning theory and justify its use in online education,  (2) provide a critical evaluation of learning style research in online learning environments, and (3) demonstrate how to consider student learning styles in online distance education via a fictitious online distance education course in educational psychology.

Know you students – Case method teaching is ultimately about teaching the students, as opposed to teaching the case. Instructors who know their students well are better able to create a learning experience that is genuinely participant-centered. A familiarity with student’s backgrounds especially those who have expertise or experience relevant to a particular class session can lead to richer discussions with a higher degree of personal relevance. Knowing which students lack extensive background in the subject can be equally important, as comprehension checks with these participants can help the instructor more effectively pace the discussion flow. C. Roland Christensen once noted that the art of case method teaching is the ability to ask the right question of the right student at the right time in the right way—a virtually impossible aspiration without deep knowledge of one’s students.

“Seven Principles” Collection of Ideas for Teaching and Learning with Technology – hundreds of ideas for teaching and learning with technology in ways that implement the seven principles.

Seven Principles of Effective Teaching: A Practical Lens for Evaluating Online Courses – The “Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education,” originally published in the AAHE Bulletin (Chickering & Gamson, 1987), are a popular framework for evaluating teaching in traditional, face-to-face courses. The principles are based on 50 years of higher education research (Chickering & Reisser, 1993). A faculty inventory (Johnson Foundation, “Faculty,” 1989) and an institutional inventory (Johnson Foundation, “Institutional,” 1989) based on these principles have helped faculty members and higher-education institutions examine and improve their teaching practices.

Strategies for Teaching at a Distance – Many teachers feel the opportunities offered by distance education outweigh the obstacles. In fact, instructors often comment that the focused preparation required by distance teaching improves their overall teaching and empathy for their students. The challenges posed by distance education are countered by opportunities to:… (Read more)

Student Readiness to Learn Online  – Many faculty members assume that students today have the skills and knowledge to learn online.  After all, they are called the Net Generation.  The Educause Center for Applied Research has surveyed college students for the past five years and annually reports on their use of information technology (ECAR, 2010). Read more

Teaching Strategies: Online Teaching – Online teaching is increasingly common at many types of higher education institutions, ranging from hybrid courses that offer a combination of in-person and online instruction, to fully online experiences and distance learning. The following resources provide guidelines for creating an online course, best practices for teaching online, and strategies for assessing the quality of online education.

Ten Elements of Competency-Based Learning – Competency-based learning (or standards-based or performance-based if you will) is based on two important ideas: (1) Students should meet learning expectations—passing kids along with a weak foundation means they will never achieve higher level knowledge and skills and will be excluded from the idea economy. (2) Students should show what they know—it’s not about turning work in, earning point, or showing up to class, they should demonstrate in several ways that they have mastered important knowledge, skills, and abilities.


MOOCs: A debate (in Spanish) discussing the impact of MOOCs in Higher Education. The emphasis is in different platforms available, their benefits and future of this instructional strategy. Some research results are mentioned.

Retention and Intention in Massive Open Online Courses: In Depth – Retention in MOOCs should be considered in the context of learner intent, especially given the varied backgrounds and motivations of students who choose to enroll. When viewed in the appropriate context, the apparently low retention in MOOCs is often reasonable.

MOOCs and Beyond – Issue number 33 of eLearning Papers focuses on the challenges and future of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), a trend in education that has skyrocketed since 2008. Guest edited by Dr Yishay Mor, Senior Lecturer at the Open University’s Institute of Educational Technology (UK), and Tapio Koskinen, Director of the eLearning Papers Editorial Board, MOOCs and Beyond seeks to both generate debate and present a variety of perspectives about this new popular learning model.
The emergence of MOOCs poses a set of challenges to the educational community. This new special issue of eLearning Papers aims to shed light on the way these online courses affect both education institutions and learners, and tries to find answers to some of the questions confronted by teachers and researchers.
Among other topics, eLearning Papers 33 explores whether MOOCs may be a viable solution for education in developing countries and analyses the role of these emerging courses in the education system, especially in higher education. Furthermore, valuable examples from the field are presented, such as the quad-blogging concept and a game-based MOOC developed to promote entrepreneurship education.

A Netnography Study of MOOC Community – Massive online open courses (MOOC) are one of the widely used groups of online education and have been thought of as a key factor in future education. In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in MOOC from education and information systems researchers. In this paper, the aim is to observe MOOC in their natural setting to examine a particular community of MOOC by drawing on the concepts of communities of practice as a theoretical lens. One of the most significant current discussions on MOOC is Coursera. Questions have been raised about the structure of an emergent type of community within MOOC. However, far too little attention has been paid to study community of practice in this type of online education. The authors conducted an online ethnographic study on a sample of discussion forums of Coursera. Discussions were qualitatively content analyzed in order to understand the structure of an emergent type of community within MOOC. Our findings suggest that cohesion in a MOOC community is brought about by the domain of doubts, questions, new knowledge, experiences and the community of learners who meet people around the world with similar interests; the practices of documents, information, ideas, stories, experiences and software sharing. The combination of forces for MOOC community are global, free and online education identity of community which provides great materials, top professors, mass participation and certificates from top universities; voting system for warrant; movement of new comers from peripheral to the core of community by contributing more in discussions.

Saadatdoost, Robab; Sim, Alex Tze Hiang; Mittal, Nitish; Jafarkarimi, Hosein; and Hee, Jee Mei, “A NETNOGRAPHY STUDY OF MOOC COMMUNITY” (2014). PACIS 2014 Proceedings. Paper 116.

Online Assessment

Assessment of Online Activities: Online assessments become more and more popular not only among distance learning institutions but also among blended and traditional schools. Rubrics and other assessment tools and strategies are listed.

Course Evaluation – ideas presented include:

      • Instructors should evaluate the quality of their teaching in order to improve it.
      • Instructors should know if the students are learning what they should learn.
      • Instructors should know if the course fits into the goals of the department.
      • Good course evaluation is important in promotion and tenure processes.

© 2007-2010, The Pennsylvania State University.

Faculty Self Assessment for Online Teaching – The Faculty Engagement subcommittee at Penn State worked on a faculty self-asssesment for online teaching.  Carol McQuiggan, an instructional designer at Penn State Harrisburg who manged the process, presented the faculty survey and its results at the SLOAN-C conference in Orlando in November of 2008. This tool is now available for individuals to use as a self-assessment for their readiness for online teaching. Try the Tool

How to create a Rubric – Based on Introduction to Rubrics: An Assessment Tool to Save Grading Time, Convey Effective Feedback, and Promote Student Learning by Stevens and Levi 2005; Assessing Academic Programs in Higher Education by Allen 2004; and Learner-Centered Assessment on College Campuses: shifting the focus from teaching to learning by Huba and Freed 2000.

Online Course Evaluation: Literature Review and Findings –  Report offers a summary of the validity and reliability of course evaluations, online vs. paper course evaluation, student perceptions of course evaluations, effects of allowing students access to course evaluation data and recommendations for improving response rates.

RubiStar – a free tool to help teachers create quality rubrics.

Rubric Maker Tools – Rubrics make grading quicker, clearer, and more objective. They are one of the most helpful tools that teachers can have in their bag of tricks. You will find the site to be one of the most extensive teacher resources for rubrics on the Internet. You will find tools that help guide you through the process of creating these assessment tools for evaluating student performance. You will also find over five hundred printable rubrics on our web site. If the concept of rubrics is completely new to you, you will want to read this article for a complete explanation.