Guest Blogger PostI’ve had the opportunity to experience the field of education from a few different perspectives.  I’m currently enrolled as a Master’s student in the Instructional Design and Technology program at the University of Memphis, and I spent several years as a high school Marketing Education teacher.  I also currently work for the University of Memphis as an Academic Technology Consultant.  These experiences have provided me a chance to gain valuable insight into both the teacher and student roles.

One aspect of teaching that I have not had the opportunity to experience is that of teaching an online or hybrid course.  As a classroom teacher, I incorporated online activities as well as gaming and simulation into my lesson plans.  However, they couldn’t be classified as true hybrid or online courses. As a student, I have taken several hybrid and online courses as part of my Master’s program.  Therefore based on my experience as a student, a teacher, and someone who currently assists faculty with instructional technology and online course design, I’ve created a “must do” list for anyone who is interested in creating online instruction.

#1.  Clearly outline all course information, policies, and requirements

Just as in a class which meets face-to-face, outlining all course information, policies, and requirements for your online course is critical to student success and aids in lessening student confusion.  Post your course syllabus containing information such as how to contact the instructor, your policy regarding late work, grading criteria, and classroom “netiquette”.

#2. Plan to maintain a consistent presence within your online course.

In a face-to-face classroom setting, would you as the instructor simply place some notes up on the board or set your PowerPoint presentation to play and walk out of the room?  I hope not!  You would remain in the room to lead the class discussion, provide guidance, and assess student comprehension of the material.  Maintaining your “virtual” presence in an online class is just as important as your physical presence in a face-to-face course.  Your students need to know that you are monitoring the class activities, providing feedback in a timely manner, and are available to respond to questions as they arise.  If several days/ weeks pass without interaction from the instructor, many students will begin to feel abandoned and unmotivated to continue on with their work in the course.

#3.  Create a way for students to make a personal connection to their instructor and fellow classmates.

In many instances, the first session of a class which meets face-to-face includes time dedicated to allowing the instructor and students to introduce themselves.  This serves as an ice breaker activity, and gives everyone a chance to make a personal connection with the people that they will be spending the semester with.  This time to connect is just as important in an online or virtual classroom setting  where face-to-face meeting opportunities are likely to never occur. Introductions could take place via a discussion board forum and would also allow the instructor and students the opportunity to link out to some of their academic and professional work to share along with their bio information.

#4.  Create multiple ways for students to engage in the course material.

In the process of writing this post, I asked my personal learning network via Twitter to share any advice or tips for instructors who are creating online content.  Barry Dahl, Vice President of Technology for Lake Superior College and Lake Superior Connect e-Campus, responded with the following: “If you’re creating online instruction, you better NOT be creating an electronic correspondence course.  Interactivity is key.” I couldn’t agree with Barry more!  Interactivity is crucial to creating effective online instruction. Otherwise, you’re simply creating digital notes for students to read.  Discussion board posts, video clips, podcasts, and live chats certainly can enhance the course materials and target a variety of learning styles.

As a part of the blog that is maintained for Lake Superior College, student survey results were posted reflecting their thoughts on the importance and overall satisfaction of specific elements within their online learning experience.  Nearly half of the items mentioned in the list of twelve ties directly back to course development and implementation.  Definitely food for thought!

Guest blogger: Kristy Conger worked in the classroom for seven years as a Marketing Education teacher/ Work Based Learning Coordinator in the Henry County School System. She also taught computer literacy courses through the Adult Basic Education Program, and currently works as an Academic Technology Consultant for the University of Memphis.  Kristy received her BS in Business Administration with an emphasis in Marketing from the University of Tennessee at Martin. She is currently pursuing her Master’s in Instructional Design and Technology at the University of Memphis. After completing her degree, she would like to return to teaching in some capacity and perhaps work within a K-12 setting in an instructional technology role.

About Michael M Grant

Dr. Michael M. Grant is a passionate professor, researcher, and consultant. He works with faculty members, schools and universities, and districts to integrate technology meaningfully and improve teaching and learning. When 140 characters just won't work, then he blogs here at He has a beautiful wife and three equally beautiful daughters, who will change the world.

7 Thoughts on “If you’re creating instruction for the Web, you better be doing these 4 things

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  2. Stacy on March 1, 2010 at 4:02 pm said:

    Kristy, thanks for these thoughts when creating Web-based courses. I personally have never completed a 100% Web-based course. At this point in my education, all of my courses have been face-to-face. During my graduate program here at the University of Memphis, I’ve had Web-enhanced courses. However, as the field of education evolves, online courses are ever increasing, and I have found myself helping with the creation of online courses for today’s students. At my job, these tips will be helpful as I help faculty with online course development.

  3. Amanda on March 2, 2010 at 8:04 pm said:

    I have had different types of online courses from the Web-enhanced to online courses with no instructor intervention. Truly the ones that kept my attention were those that included several ways that engaged me in the course. Knowing up front the course expectations is the initial start to a successful learning experience.

  4. Honestly, I think everyone who designs an online course should also be a student in an online course at some point. In order to be an effective online course designer, I think you have to be able to “see” the course from the student’s perspective. Will they be engaged? Are various learning styles taken into consideration?

  5. Joey on March 4, 2010 at 6:34 pm said:

    Thanks for the great information. Point three is so true! I’m in an online class this semester and the teacher has done a great job of helping everyone to “connect”. It has really the made the class much more enjoyable.

  6. Jeremy on March 8, 2010 at 2:32 pm said:

    Hey Kristy,

    Thanks for all the wonderful tips. Now if we can just find a way for all online instructors to read these rules and abide by them. I agree with Joey that point number 3 is key for having students stay engaged and interested in an online course. As an instructor (face-to-face though) I think that number 2 might be the hardest for me in teaching an online course. Without “face time” with students, I believe that I could easily forget that my students are “real” people who are really looking to learn something from my class. I also feel like I would be less engaged with my students and thus less engaged with my class. I think all could agree that online learning presents increased (or at least new) difficulties for both students and teachers.

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