Seven Principles for Successful Teaching Online

Campbell University Online utilizes 7 Principles for Successful Teaching Online. The Principles provide a descriptive approach to teaching that allows an instructor the room they need to successfully deliver learning to their students using practices they find relevant to their particular subject and personal teaching style.

We have also included a PDF listing a number of practices to help demonstrate some of what can be done within each principle.

I. Instructor is present throughout the course.

Presence plays a critical role in the digital world. Students are apt to get lost (disconnected) in a forest of technology just as they do in a forest of trees. People connect with people and having someone there who understands and is able to address the human factor in a digital course is critical. It’s the instructor, not technology, who provides a catalyst for change.

But what should presence in an online course look like? The answers to that question are as varied as the people who teach online courses but the basic premise is that distance doesn’t have to mean disengaged. Presence can be:

Instructor engaged in a balanced way throughout the course;

Frequent communication with students (i.e., weekly announcements, notes of encouragement, a 60 second video chat);

Personal feedback with returned assignments;

Things (like a short bio) that let students see the instructor as human.

II. Communication is clear, timely, and answers the mail (5 Ws and H).

The principle speaks primarily of non-learning communication which starts with the design of the course and development of course materials. A major issue online students experience is having to navigate a complex system of instructions, policies, and websites that can send conflicting signals. They are frequently left guessing as to what needs to be done, when it is due, how it is to be turned in and where. Instructions, prompts, materials, and any other course correspondence should be clear and give students all of the information they need to successfully complete assignments.

Timing is another issue. Responding promptly to student questions and concerns gives them a great sense of support which can help settle their minds allowing them to focus on learning.

III. Environment built for learning.

The best environment for student learning is one that is supportive and engaging. It finds the instructor setting an open and accepting tone and creating a sense of community. Students perform better when they feel connected to the class and the institution – things that spur them on. The environment will tell a student whether it’s okay to ask questions or offer a differing perspective. It lets them know the instructor cares about them and their success. The environment can also help keep their motivation levels high.

IV. Meaningful Interaction.

Interaction is the glue that binds material to the mind. It is the doorway through which students will engage the subject, instructor, and one another. What does meaningful interaction look like? It can be any activity or event that causes students to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty. Some ways to help make interaction meaningful:

Provide for each type of interaction in the course (Instructor-to-student, Student-to-content, and Student-to-student);

Develop prompts that invite responses, questions, discussions, and reflections;

Model expected interactive behaviors for students;

Be explicit about the purpose of class interactions and their place in learning.

V. Instructional Methods & materials attuned to course & students.

The use of instructional methods and material plays a major part in whether learning outcomes are achieved or not. The basic instructional approach should be learner-centered and promote active learning. Good methods and materials encourage students to be engaged and to take ownership of their learning. Learning material should cover all of the learning outcomes, be multimodal, and provide multiple types of content to achieve a more complete understanding of topics. Metacognitive learning strategies specific to the subject should be incorporated into the course and modeled for students to show how an expert applies the strategies.

VI. Learning Management drives improvement (course & student).

Learning management handles those parts of the course directly related to learning and achievement of outcomes. It also seeks to improve the way the course impacts student learning. Some major responsibilities that drive learning improvement are:

Monitor student and class progress – making adjustments as needed;

Activities that are authentic and which promote critical thinking and problem solving;

Feedback to students that is timely and specific to what they need to do to improve performance or which acknowledges exceptional work;

A well-formed assessment strategy aimed at improving learning and making course improvements.

VII. Proactive Course management.

Managing the structure and logistics related to teaching and learning. This may not be the most attractive part of teaching but it lays the foundation for everything else. When a course is managed well, students are able to spend more of their time, and cognitive load, on learning rather than trying to figure out the organization and requirements of the course. Proactive course management would:

Deal with problems quickly and suitably (problems don’t get better with age);

Structure due dates and delivery of material consistently so students can plan their learning alongside their busy lives;

Drive course improvement by evaluating (Formative & Summative) the effectiveness of course components, content, and outcomes.

Edit course materials for clarity & completeness and ensure all links, videos, and components work and are legible.

Seven Principles for Successful Teaching Online