27 Teaching Practices to Consider in the Online Environment

While space does not allow for a comprehensive discussion of online teaching practices, following are several practices to consider [1] [2] [3]:


  • Rigorously connect content to core concepts and learning outcomes.
  • Design experiences to help learners make progress on their novice-to-expert journey
  • Allow for student agency by providing opportunities for students to direct their own learning, e.g., multiple content formats, choice of assignment type, self-reflection, student-led discussion, or student-found content.
    • Design and facilitate learning tasks and activities that are grounded in authentic problems.
    • Use cases or scenarios to pose problems that engage students’ interest and curiosity.
  • Provide opportunities for students to reflect on their learning.
  • Select and use content resources that are available in digital format and that are directly supportive of your learning goals.
  • To help improve the quality of your learning design, ask learners for informal feedback at multiple points, e.g., early in the term, mid-term, and end of term.

Online presence and community

  • Be present in the course site.
  • Create a supportive online course community.
  • Provide explicit expectations for your learners and yourself as to how you will communicate:
    • Ask learners to post their content-focused questions in a public space on the course site (e.g., a discussion forum) so they can view and answer each others’ questions. These queries and responses will benefit all learners.
    • Communicate what your response time (e.g., within 24 hours) to student’s questions will be.

Online assessments, activities, assignments

  • Consider how to achieve the three basic interaction patterns [4]:
    • Faculty to student
      • Create module introductions and mini-lectures via  audio podcasts or video
      • Send online announcements that remind, coach, suggest.
      • Interactions with the students (via email, forums, live classroom events)
      • Provide frequent, timely, specific feedback to learners.
    • Student to student
      • Utilize small teams for collaborative problem solving and/or writing projects
      • Peer learning (reviews, evaluations, assessments)
      • Online group discussions (including peer-led)
    • Student to learning resources (content)
      • Indicate how much time students should be working on the course each week.
      • Provide guidance on how to successfully navigate learning resources.
      • Provide links to review and/or advanced level resources.
      • Provide clear, consistent instructions on how to interact with learning resources.
  • Use a variety of large group, small group, and individual work activities and assignments
  • Include both synchronous and asynchronous activities
  • Prepare discussion prompts that invite responses, questions, discussions, and reflections. Suggestions include [5]:
    • Create open-ended questions for learners to explore and apply the concepts they are learning
    • Model Socratic-type probing and follow-up questions:
      • “Why do you think that?”
      • “What is your reasoning”?
      • “Is there an alternative strategy?”
    • Ask clarifying questions that encourage students to think about what they know and don’t know
  • Plan a good closing and final activity for the course (e.g. student presentations, summaries, and analyses)
  • Assess as you go by gathering evidence of learning (formative and summative) at multiple points throughout the course.
  • Avoid limiting assessment to papers, exams, and/or a final project (See Ilinois Online Network Online Activity Index for more ideas.)

Whereas the suggestions above are focused on online learning in particular, there may often be overlap between what is considered effective online teaching and what is considered effective teaching in general, regardless of modality.  Centers for teaching and learning provide resources on a wide range of teaching and learning topics and strategies that can be adapted to or used in the online environment:

Additional Resources


  1. Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R.-M. (2016). The online teaching survival guide: simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  2. Udermann, B., (June 2019).7 Strategies to Promote Community in Online Courses. Faculty Focus. Higher Ed Teaching & Learning.
  3. Martin, J. (2019). Building relationships and increasing engagement in the virtual classroom: Practical tools for the online instructor. Journal of Educators Online, 16(1).
  4. Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R.-M. (2016). The online teaching survival guide: simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  5. Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R.-M. (2016). The online teaching survival guide: simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.


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Guidelines for Online Teaching and Design Copyright © by TeachingSupport@UMN.edu and Faculty Development for Online Teaching task group is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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