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This module introduces a series of modules focused on strategies that instructors should consider when teaching in an online environment. This module is part of the Best Practices in Online Teaching Course created by Penn State University World Campus as a guide for faculty who are new to teaching in an online environment.

Introduction: know your medium!

Online teaching is an art…just like oil painting, writing, or any other art.

Artist Karl Leitzel at Work, Photo by Karl Leitzel, Penn State University, World Campus

Oil paint is a mixture of pigments and certain kinds of oils, such as walnut oil, poppy seed oil, or others. One basic but important rule when applying oil paints is “fat over lean,” which means you should use “oilier” paints for each extra layer to avoid cracking or peeling. Knowing the paint (the medium) helps you to master fine techniques in oil painting. **

Likewise, when teaching online, one fundamental feature of the medium, the Internet, is that teaching and learning is done at a distance. As a result, many teaching and communication strategies seemingly not necessary in a face-to-face setting will now need to be spelled out to avoid miscommunication or confusion. Therefore, when teaching online, you’ll need to know the characteristics of an online environment and attend to appropriate ways of communicating, interacting, motivating, and supporting your students. These elements in an online environment are certainly differently from those in a traditional face-to-face setting.

In this Section, we present strategic teaching steps:

  • Promote Active Learning
  • Model Effective Online Interaction
  • Monitor Student Progress and Encourage Lagging Students
  • Assess Messages in Online Discussion
  • Sustain Students’ Motivation
  • Provide Feedback and Support
  • Encourage Students to Regulate Their Own Learning
  • Understand the Impact of Multiculturalism
  • Deal with Conflicts Promptly
  • Use Evaluation Data
** The information about oil painting is referenced from: (External Link)

Is frequent instructor-initiated personal email the most important way to improve students’ sense of community and learning experience in general?

No. Results from Woods’ (2002) research study suggest that frequent delivery of personalized emails did not increase the amount of student participation in required class discussions; the study identified no significant differences between groups in perceived sense of community, satisfaction with learning experience, and personal relationship with the instructor.

Woods, R.H. (2002). How much communication is enough in online courses?--Exploring the relationship between frequency of instructor-initiated personal email and learners' perceptions of and participation in online learning. International Journal of Instructional Media, 29(4) , 377-394

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Would content-directed online courses with less focus on collaboration and discussion affect the quality of learners’ learning experience?

Yes. Even though learner-content interaction is described as the “defining characteristic of education” in Moore’s (1989) Three Types of Interaction, content-driven online courses based on didactic teaching styles can certainly be frustrating for online learners. Learner interaction, collaboration, and good communication are all important motivators for learners to gain optimal learning experience.

Moore, M.G. (1989). Three types of interaction. American Journal of Distance Education, 3(2) , pp.1-6

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Many Course Management Systems (CMSs) generate reports about students’ log-on activities and progress in the course. Would that be enough for me to assess students’ participation in online discussions?

No. Only assessing the quantity of messages posted online can lead to poor quality of online discussions.

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Will my participation in online discussion improve student engagement in the course discussions?

Yes. Instructors who participate in online discussions can promote students’ deeper involvement by answering questions, providing confirmation, critiques, encouragement, or additional resources.

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The dynamics of the online classroom can cause a shift in the role of the instructor. How would you characterize the role of the instructor in the online learning environment? List some of the characteristics of this role. How is this role different from the face-to-face environment? If you wish, post your comments to the discussion board for this page. You may wish to reference one or all of the following concepts as you consider the role of the instructor:

  • Teacher-centered vs. Learner-centered learning environment
  • Sage-on-the-stage vs. Facilitator-on-the-side
  • Activity-rich vs. Media-rich online courses
  • Online vs. Traditional face-to-face classroom
  • New social and learning dynamics

Questions & Answers

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Eke Reply
are nano particles real
Missy Reply
Hello, if I study Physics teacher in bachelor, can I study Nanotechnology in master?
Lale Reply
no can't
where we get a research paper on Nano chemistry....?
Maira Reply
nanopartical of organic/inorganic / physical chemistry , pdf / thesis / review
what are the products of Nano chemistry?
Maira Reply
There are lots of products of nano chemistry... Like nano coatings.....carbon fiber.. And lots of others..
Even nanotechnology is pretty much all about chemistry... Its the chemistry on quantum or atomic level
no nanotechnology is also a part of physics and maths it requires angle formulas and some pressure regarding concepts
Preparation and Applications of Nanomaterial for Drug Delivery
Hafiz Reply
Application of nanotechnology in medicine
has a lot of application modern world
what is variations in raman spectra for nanomaterials
Jyoti Reply
ya I also want to know the raman spectra
I only see partial conversation and what's the question here!
Crow Reply
what about nanotechnology for water purification
RAW Reply
please someone correct me if I'm wrong but I think one can use nanoparticles, specially silver nanoparticles for water treatment.
yes that's correct
I think
Nasa has use it in the 60's, copper as water purification in the moon travel.
nanocopper obvius
what is the stm
Brian Reply
is there industrial application of fullrenes. What is the method to prepare fullrene on large scale.?
industrial application...? mmm I think on the medical side as drug carrier, but you should go deeper on your research, I may be wrong
How we are making nano material?
what is a peer
What is meant by 'nano scale'?
What is STMs full form?
scanning tunneling microscope
how nano science is used for hydrophobicity
Do u think that Graphene and Fullrene fiber can be used to make Air Plane body structure the lightest and strongest. Rafiq
what is differents between GO and RGO?
what is simplest way to understand the applications of nano robots used to detect the cancer affected cell of human body.? How this robot is carried to required site of body cell.? what will be the carrier material and how can be detected that correct delivery of drug is done Rafiq
analytical skills graphene is prepared to kill any type viruses .
Any one who tell me about Preparation and application of Nanomaterial for drug Delivery
what is Nano technology ?
Bob Reply
write examples of Nano molecule?
The nanotechnology is as new science, to scale nanometric
nanotechnology is the study, desing, synthesis, manipulation and application of materials and functional systems through control of matter at nanoscale
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Source:  OpenStax, Best practices in online teaching. OpenStax CNX. Aug 28, 2007 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10453/1.2
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