FETC 2015 Coverage

5 Promising Practices for Online Instructors

To teach online, first learn online

If educators want to teach online courses effectively, they should first take an online course, which can give them an accurate feeling for what works.

This crucial tip and a list of others were delivered Friday during a session of FETC 2015 by Jayme Linton, assistant professor at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, NC. She's the program coordinator for the master of science degree in Online Teaching and Instructional Design.

Online instructors generally have been selected using superficial measurements and have received little training.

"They'd say, 'You're great with technology. Go teach this online course.' Teachers are being set up for failure," Linton said. "We know what works face to face. But I have been in a face to face interaction with an effective instructor, and then I have had that instructor online, and they have been the worst."

Also, successful traditional students can be unprepared for online learning.

"I have found people making mistakes," Linton said. "They can erase the instructions."

Here are some advantages of an online course:

  • Work at your own pace.
  • Fewer time restraints.
  • Review any time.
  • More collaboration is possible.
  • Group chat sessions are easy.
  • The learner has the most control.Instructors can send students into separate breakout rooms and have them post comments independently.
  • Facebook groups can be used for the course chats.

There are also disadvantages:

  • The lessons might not be engaging.
  • Software problems can be frequent.
  • It's hard to make sure that information is being understood by the students.

Linton said that online instructors must do these things:

  1. Get experience as an online learner.
  2. Address the attitudes and misconceptions of students.
  3. Build relationships with students.
  4. Find a culture of support in your institution; build your own network.
  5. Know how to intervene to correct content, improve teaching methods and maintain technology.

"There are a lot of myths out there," Linton said. "But there are possibilities. This is something that works."

About the Author

Patrick Peterson worked for Florida Today, a Gannett daily newspaper in Brevard County, Fla., from 2005 through 2013, and earlier was embedded with U.S. Marines as a reporter during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In Biloxi, Miss., he was a reporter for The Sun Herald newspaper and also founded and ran a charter boat company. He is a journalism graduate of Louisiana State University.