9 Ways to Improve Your Online Instruction

This article is based off of the course Teaching Online and Hybrid created by STARLINK Training Network, an agency of the Texas Association of Community Colleges, and available on Atomic Learning.

Whether you are a novice just starting out or an experienced online instructor looking to enhance your skills, these nine suggestions may help you to improve your online instruction.

Let’s jump right in:

  1. Identify your Teaching Style
    When it comes to teaching, try to figure out what you do best and what you feel most passionate about in a face-to-face environment. You can then try to adapt that into an online course.
     
  2. Know Your LMS (Learning Management System)
    Whether your campus uses Blackboard, Brightspace, Canvas or others, get comfortable with the learning management system you have access to. Knowing what your LMS is capable of and what you can do with it can help make the most of your time.
     
  3. Utilize a Mentor
    Find a fellow faculty member that is already familiar with creating courses online. They may be able to give you tips and tricks that they learned along the way, as well as ideas on how to get started or improve your current courses. There is no need to reinvent the wheel every time.
     
  4. Be Consistent
    Ensure your online course covers all of the same learning objectives that would be covered in a face-to-face course. Meaning, some of your projects or assignments may have to be adjusted. If you would, in a face-to-face setting, typically have students watch a video and encourage open discussion afterword’s, use that same method by posting a video and starting a discussion thread online to better emulate the face-to-face environment.
     
  5. Create a Welcoming Online Environment
    Consider using message boards, discussion threads, and instructor news areas to help students feel welcome and comfortable in your course. When developing your course, ensure that course materials are easy to find and easy to access to help students navigate the course successfully.
     
  6. Convey Expectations
    Be sure to clearly define your expectations to your students, beyond a list of “do this, this, and this.” Try outlining them in a way that explains how to be successful in the course. Encouraging time management and critical reading can help limit distractions, which can be common issue for students in the online setting.

Prepping for Returning to Campus with #ALsummersession

Ready or not, the new semester is ramping up. Want to make changes to your courses before students converge on you? Now’s your chance!

To get started, simply login using your institution's method of access and check out the links below!

Facilitating Online Courses in an LMS Workshop
Looking to move your course online? This resource focuses on the unique challenges of online education, walks through course development from beginning to end, and includes both theoretical guidance AND practical tips and tools.
Learn about Facilitating an Online Course

Learning Management Systems (LMS) Training
Canvas, Blackboard, Moodle... there are a whole host of LMS systems out there, each with a slew of features that are underutilized. Find out what you DON'T know about your campus LMS with online resources on many of the most popular systems.
Learn about available LMS Training

Effective Presentations Workshop
There are some really bad presentations out there, but yours won't be one of them with the help of this online resource! In it, you'll see why color is important, why big photos are good—why clip art isn't—how to utilize storytelling, and more!
Learn about Effective Presentations

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This article is a part of an Atomic Learning special blog series dedicated to keeping the learning going all summer long by helping you learn something new with quick personal development tips!

The Course Copy Road to Nowhere - LTI Best Practices

Reposted from IMS Global Learning Consortium's Best Practices, which features best practices for reference when implementing LTI®.

Just imagine you are the administrator of an LMS holding hundreds of on-line courses, and that your teachers have added playlists for useful videos within each section of their courses. Now think about what happens when these courses are copied at the end of a session to prepare afresh for another intake of students. If the video content is embedded within the course and the files hosted within the LMS then I suspect all will be well; the new copy of the course will happily be linked to these files. But what if these videos are provided via a third-party application which is linked to a course using LTI, what then? In that case the only thing connecting the link in the course to the playlist of exciting and valued videos is a single resource link ID - a strong connection when it is set up, but one which is easily broken when the link is copied to another course. The result is that you (the LMS administrator) are then inundated with calls from disgruntled (angry?) teachers who have to go through their new course and set up all the playlists again (because they all have new resource link IDs). Time for you to either take a vacation or to find a solution!

Well, if finding a solution is the choice you made, then IMS has one to offer. This was exactly the issue facing Atomic Learning and its customers, who, in conjunction with IMS, devised and implemented a simple solution using two new custom parameter substitution variables which have now been included in the LTI 1.2 specification. The values of these variables provide a list of the resource link IDs and context IDs with which the current link has previously been associated. The first ID in each list will be for the course from which the current course was copied; the second will be from the course from which the previous course was copied, etc. Thus, when Atomic Learning receives a launch with a resource link ID which it does not recognise, it can check the resource link ID history to see if any of these are known to them. If they are, a copy of the playlist associated with that resource link ID can be made so the connection can be re-established for the teacher and their students. The history of IDs are provided in reverse chronological order, so that the first match found (most recent) is the one to use.

ECAR Report Finds Faculty & Students Need LMS Training

According to a recent ECAR report, the learning management system (LMS) remains an invaluable tool for many colleges and universities—but many advanced features are underutilized.

Highlighted findings:

  • Over 70% faculty members indicated that their LMS is a very useful tool for both enhancing their teaching and student learning
     
  • The stats for faculty and student use  was nearly identical, 85% of faculty compared to 83% of students
     
  • 56% of students utilize LMS tools in most or all of their courses
     
  • 3 out of 5 faculty report that the campus' system was critical to their teaching, but many only use basic features to push information and handouts to students

Diving deeper into usage and satisfaction, the study uncovered that that lack of awareness and training could be an issue in effective utilization of available tools. In fact, over half of faculty (57%) and students (51%) agree that better understanding LMS technology would make them more effective.

Additionally, one anonymous faculty member was quoted saying institutions need to "Better educate students and faculty on the [LMS] program. It is such a great tool, but half the faculty don’t even use it. We, as faculty, need to use this program university-wide so that students are familiar on day one with the program. Also they need support—aside from the help line, they need it to be a part of freshman orientation.”

Making the Most of Your LMS

Love them or hate them, learning management systems have become a must-have for today’s campus. To quote a recent article: “The learning management system is the critical component to the entire elearning program. It is the engine and foundation. The best LMSs are the ones that are never noticed – they just hum along in the background as the learner interacts with the content.”
 
No matter where you stand on LMSs, Atomic Learning has resources to help you make the most of the tools available to you.
 
Beginners
New to the learning management world or struggling with a recent upgrade? Atomic Learning offers step-by-step training on the most common LMSs, including training for both instructors and students.