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Online Teaching Strategies And Effectiveness Back to Course Index





The concept of asynchronous learning is over 170 years old.  It has its origins in a correspondence course offered in Great Britain where the instructor sent lessons and received students’ completed assignments by mail.  The format of distance learning has changed, but today’s courses are modern versions of their predecessors.  Over time online coursework has become a mainstream form of education.  Now a popular way for students and employees to advance their education or professional development, this method has developed tremendously since its beginnings.  Students can now interact not only with the instructors but other students in the class even in real-time in some circumstances.  

Even before the Department of Defense created the Internet, The University of Illinois created an Intranet for its students in 1960.  It allowed for the students to access course materials as well as listen to recorded lectures.  This evolved into Programmed Logic For Automatic Teaching Operations (PLATO) which operated thousands of terminals across the world.  PLATO would be used to create many of the concepts used today in social networking such as message boards, chat rooms, and screen sharing.  Later in 1979 through the first massively played educational computer game called Lemonade Stand the concept of learning with computers and more specifically to the idea of learning in virtual environments was introduced.  Then in 1986, the Electronic University Network (EUN) offered its first online course in 1986 through proprietary software and telephone communication.  In 1994 CALC (Computer Assisted Learning Center) offered what we would now recognize as an “online” course.  Today more than three-quarters of CEOs and small business owners state that they view the quality of online educational programs to be on par with traditional degree programs.  Most traditional universities now require their students to take a minimum number of credit hours online.  The ability of online degrees has made it possible for working adults to further their education without having to stop working.  There are now more than 227 online bachelor’s programs.  

The online classroom is significantly different from the traditional one though and requires that instructors create effective and engaging courses for digital delivery.  Teachers must also keep a larger focus on student engagement to produce favorable outcomes.  

This course will explore ways to develop strategies to further web-based learning by creating engaging and supportive learning environments and methods to demonstrate understanding.




Without the physical presence of an instructor in the classroom online instruction needs to be engaging and supportive right from the start and for the duration of the course, to maintain an effective learning community.  These can be fostered through other means of contact such as email, chats, and online discussion.

Nowadays everyone wants to get the teacher that dresses up in costumes to teach history.  He is entertaining!  Teachers work really hard to hold the attention of the students.  For all you know though I might be in my comfy PJs.  The online teacher cannot rely on costumes and surprise distraction to keep the students engaged.   To engage students who are not in the room during a lesson, courses frequently mix spurts of pictures, discussions, collaboration, video and audio clips, and hands-on exercises with text and possibly brief video lectures.  Each of these has pros and cons.  The video and audio clips engage the listener but limit where and when you can take courses.  You can’t watch a video clip in the library without headphones without getting a few stern looks!

Engage with the learning community through online posts, forums or social media – when people see teachers putting time into discussions and engagement, they’ll be more encouraged to participate themselves. Through this engagement, you’ll also develop professional relationships with your students and make their experience far more personal and memorable.


Create A Supportive Learning Environment


Online teachers have an opportunity to create a supportive online community for learners by encouraging both teacher-to-student engagement and student-to-student interaction when possible and appropriate.  This is can be achieved with online courses where students all start on a course together and work on the course through the same time frame through:

  • At the start of an online course, get the ball rolling with a personal introduction post, and encourage participants to contribute their own short bio or introduction to the group.
  • Create an open forum or discussion board where learners can post to request help and assistance from each other, developing peer-to-peer support.
  • Set up small groups, similar to traditional study groups, for supportive mentoring of fellow learners.

These strategies will encourage learners to work together as an active learning community, which brings benefits to all individuals involved.

During asynchronous learning, it is a bit more challenging as the students are not starting and ending the course at the same time, but there are other ways to foster an interactive, supportive setting.  The instructor can send out communication as each student starts the course to give them information on how to reach out.  Also, groups can be scheduled to complete online chats to review case studies or have discussions regardless of where they are in the course.



These days, we’re fortunate to have the technology to create virtual learning environments that allow us to collaborate and engage just as well as if we were in the classroom.

The variety of activities that are now possible online makes it possible to create many types of effective learning environments.

The best online programs, when possible, use a combination of both synchronous and asynchronous activities, creating a blend of traditional online learning styles with newer, more collaborative audio and visual tools. Working with a mix of activities makes the content more interesting and exciting, increasing student engagement with both the instructor and other learners.  

There are programs that time the student and will not let them move forward until they spend a pre-determined amount of time on a chapter.  There are methods that make the student pass a short quiz to move on.  You can employ videos and audio lessons when sound is not an issue.  There are many ways to control the content and make it engaging.



Feedback is an essential component of all effective learning environments – including online.

Some online instruction utilizes an instructor who provides feedback.  Other platforms create environments where the system will provide the feedback through telling a user if the test question was correct or incorrect and if it wan incorrect can give them the section or further information.  Both the teacher and the program that provide ongoing assessment will help to create an educational experience that is informative, engaging, and motivational for the learner. Feedback should be constructive and offered as soon as possible so that students can clearly identify which behaviors or skills need to be improved.

Group feedback can be encouraged through collaborative exercises, which also helps to promote peer engagement.



It is important to acknowledge the need for being able to take the online learning mobile.  Students and employees are now accustomed to using their mobile devices for learning.  Not only on laptops but tablets and even smartphones.

Mobile learning holds key advantages for learners, allowing them to access up-to-date course materials and relevant content anywhere, anytime. With bite-sized pieces of information available to be digested quickly and easily, learners can work through course materials at their own pace, assisting both performance and productivity.  

Make sure the online content can be easily accessed by all of the screen sizes to maximize your teaching methods. You’ll also be demonstrating to your learners that you’re in touch with the needs of today’s modern workforce and its relevant technology.

With these strategies in place, you can feel more confident about your online teaching skills and eLearning materials. You’ll also know that you’re working to create a more positive and collaborative learning environment for your students.



Long lectures probably aren’t the best way to engage with a face-to-face class – and these are even more ineffective online.  

The learner will lose interest in pages and pages of plain text or hour-long videos.  Present information in smaller 5 to 10 minute portions along with a varied format.  Design the lessons with ample white space, breaking up text with pictures, text boxes, and use color when appropriate for example in the section titles.  Think in terms of magazine articles.  They are visually compelling and the articles are short in length.



In a traditional classroom or lecture hall, some students never participate in discussions or ask questions, usually because they are either shy or are not engaged. Online that participation is sometimes required but can be equally intimidating if students are expected to engage with dozens of classmates.  It can also get confusing if too many students are making comments in a discussion.



Students who enroll in virtual courses usually are at least somewhat comfortable with technology instructors should leverage that by allowing them to use digital tools for their assignments.

While it’s quicker to grade papers than to review student-produced PowerPoint presentations or videos many students express themselves better that way.



Online learning is certainly a more effective option for students, but it’s also better for the environment.  It has been found that online courses equate to an average of 90% less energy and 85% fewer CO2 emissions per student than traditional in-person courses.

Online education is less expensive and much more convenient than traditional face to face courses.

Students can fit them around their existing responsibilities and commitments and can study at whatever time is most convenient to them. Even better: they don’t have to travel anywhere to study, they can simply log in to the virtual campus from the comfort of their own home or office.

The cost can often be a prohibitive factor in why individual students don’t enroll in courses they’re interested in. This is also an issue for corporations who wish to encourage their employees to undergo further training but don’t have much of a budget for conferences and training courses. Online courses are easily accessible on much smaller budgets.

In addition to the convenience and the cost, a large number of students are turning to online learning courses because they have become a better way to learn. Because online courses give students full control over their own learning, students are able to work at their own speed. Generally, students work faster than they would do otherwise and take in more information. They are able to move faster through areas of the course they feel comfortable with, but slower through those that they need a little more time on.

Retention rates are higher with online learning.  Many offline courses struggle to retain students throughout the length of the course. It’s been suggested that more engaging multimedia content, more control over how they take in the material and less likelihood of classes clashing with other commitments all contribute to this rise.

There will always be people who say that learning is best done in a classroom; that having face to face interaction with a tutor is more beneficial than learning through other methods such as online learning. However, one way to determine the best form of learning is through exam results and from research studies that have been conducted. There is evidence that online learning students generally score higher than those students who learn in traditional classes

All online instruction is not equal.  Learning is a dialogue and the level of interaction with online education should be balanced with the topic being taught.  However, with the technology available students can interact and engage in ways even better than in the traditional classroom with good online instruction.


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