Teaching online, however, requires the instructor to play a greater role in facilitation, guidance, and management. The instructor needs to make that extra effort to been seen as approachable and accessible to the student.
In eSchool News (January 2009), Managing Editor Dennis Pierce listed the "Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education" (Chickering & Gamson, 1987):
- Encouraging student-faculty contact,
- Encouraging cooperation among students,
- Encouraging active learning,
- Giving prompt feedback,
- Emphasizing time on task,
- Setting high expectations, and
- Respecting diverse talents and ways of learning.
In a conversation with some Faculty at Drexel, I learned that this simple note of welcome provides big returns. The students feel that they are important as individuals, and that they are recognized not only as another enrolled student. At the end of the course that these students attended, their feedback indicated, again, the good impression that first note of welcome made on them. It impacted their view of the instructor, the course, and their individual responsibility for the success of the course.
Phillips also noted that some measure of redundancy of course information is important: posting directions and reminders in many places throughout the online course environment, so that students can easily find course requirements and other important material, is important to the student's success and comfort level.
When teaching online, the message is clear: good, open, frequent communication is the key. Clearly identifying objectives and expectations provides the focus the students are looking for, and a road map that points to the successful completion of the course.