Tips & Resources

Where to Find Advice for Building Better Courses Online

Universities across the globe had to act quickly to keep classes going after campuses closed because of the novel coronavirus crisis. That meant the emergency adaptation of online learning, one course at a time. Now, professors can begin shifting from the “emergency response” mode to trying to think long-term about improving online courses. Here are some suggestions for where instructors can find expert advice on building better online courses. The list is not exhaustive and we intend to continue adding resources to it. Suggestions for additional entries are welcome: Please make suggestions in the comments section. 

General Guidelines

Course Design & Development Tutorial

City University of New York School of Professional Studies

This tutorial was designed for faculty members at CUNY School of Professional Studies, but its developers hope other instructors will find much of it beneficial. The tutorial consists of 10 modules that users may follow in sequence or skip to topics of interest. The modules include an overview of online course design and development, an analysis for understanding learning outcomes, tips on practical matters like how to construct effective online discussions, and an explanation of the importance of applying the concept “backward design,” in which instructors start by identifying what they want students to learn, in developing online courses.

Teaching Effectively During Times of Disruption

Stanford University

This detailed document, created by two academic technology specialists at Stanford University, refers in its title to two undergraduate academic units at Stanford, the Stanford Introductory Studies (SIS) program and the Program in Writing and Rhetoric (PWR). Much of the information here, however, is general enough to be useful to instructors anywhere. The document provides an overview of many considerations for instructors who have to move their teaching online, like the differences between synchronous vs. asynchronous teaching and the advantages and disadvantages of each. There is also advice about matters like teaching a class through Zoom, how to hold virtual office hours, general tips for teaching online, and resources for online writing instruction.

Keep Teaching During Prolonged Campus or Building Closures

Indiana University

This site offers advice to instructors preparing to teach online under four categories: Get started, Strategies, Resources and Frequently Asked Questions. Some of the advice is specific to Canvas, the course-management system in place at Indiana. Other information could be useful to professors anywhere. Under Strategies, for example, instructors will find advice on seven topics, including how to communicate with students, run laboratory activities and assess student learning.

Developing an Online Course

University of California, Davis

This site describes a self-paced course for professors who are building an online course from scratch or substantially revising an existing course. The course, taught in a series of modules, was developed by Indiana University and apparently is not currently available, but the material on UC-Davis’s site gives a detailed outline of the content of each module that make it useful as a guide for instructors in creating online courses.

Bringing Your Course Online

Resources compiled by the MLA, March 2020

The Modern Language Association is gathering resources and advice from its members and the wider community on this site. The association acknowledges that effective online teaching requires training and significant pedagogical shifts, but notes that because of the suddenness of the campus closures this spring and uncertainty over when they will reopen, most professors need quicker fixes for how to effectively deliver their courses remotely. 

Inclusion, Equity, and Access While Teaching Remotely

Rice University

This document focuses on the question of how to ensure that all students have access to the materials they need to succeed when courses move online, despite issues like unequal access to technology, lack of reliable or adequate Internet service, reliance on mobile phones for accessing courses, and disabilities that make it difficult to participate in class discussions or watch a video, for example. The guide is divided into three sections, on assessing students’ level of access to technology, using a mix of synchronous and asynchronous course materials, and creating a supportive environment for all students. There are lists of tips and recommendations and work-arounds under each.

Putting Your Course Online in a Hurry

Vanderbilt University 

This guide, compiled by Derek Bruff, director of the Center for Teaching at Vanderbilt University, points to timely podcasts, blog posts and other articles created by Vanderbilt instructors on topics like “Dealing with the Unexpected: Teaching When You or Your Students Can’t Make it to Class,” and “Accessible Teaching in the Time of Covid-19.” Some of the advice is in part specific to tools in place at Vanderbilt, but these articles often have wider applications. One on “Asynchronous Teaching Tools on Brightspace,” for example, has several series of tips on issues like how to make the best use of pre-recorded lecture videos or asynchronous discussion boards.

Online Tutorials: Tools and Best Practices

University of Cincinnati Libraries

This guide offers advice about how to create online tutorials and walks instructors through concepts like storyboarding (a visual representation of how a video will unfold), selecting examples, testing tutorials in different browsers, and incorporating tutorials into courses. Some of the advice is specific to software tools used at Cincinnati (Kaltura Capture and Articulate Storyline), but much of it is general enough to be useful to anyone. 

Need to Quickly Convert a Face-to-Face Class to an Online Class?

Global Society of Online Learning Educators (GSOLE)

This webpage is part of GSOLE’s “Just in Time” series of resources for instructors who suddenly had to move a class online. The document provides both discussion and step-by-step outlines of key considerations. In a section titled Creating the Online Classroom, there are checklists on How to maintain the semblance of regular class meetings, How to lecture online, and How to get the most out of recorded presentations. A section on Conducting Engaging Online Classes offers tips on How to conduct classroom discussion online, How to maintain instructor presence, and How to help students in their virtual collaborations. 

Online Course Delivery Guide

Lebanese American University Center for Innovative Learning

This presentation is designed as a guide to help faculty members in putting a traditional course online. It includes lists of best practices for planning courses, for blending synchronous and asynchronous class materials, and other issues, along with some do’s and don’ts under each topic (do plan with learning outcomes in mind; don’t lecture as if you are in class). There are also discussions of concerns like external content and copyright issues, and the challenges of how to assess online learning. 

Training for Educators in Jordan

Jordanian Ministry of Education

Jordan has started a program to help teachers develop skills for online learning through a series of courses on the online learning platform Edraak. The courses, taught in Arabic, discuss how to use specific tools like Microsoft Teams, teaching tips, and detailed overviews about using technology for teaching. The modules take four to 42 hours to complete. The program is reserved for Jordanian citizens.

(Google Classroom Explained for Professors)

Nakib 4Tech

This 27-minute video (in Arabic) describes how professors can use the online service Google Classroom for specific tasks like giving lectures and grading assignments. The video acknowledges the challenges of teaching online and offers tips on how to overcome them. Created by Nakib4Tech, an Arabic-language website dedicated to “making technology easier and more enjoyable for everyone,” the video can serve as an introductory lesson for instructors who are new to teaching online. 

Additional Articles and Resources 

The Single Most Essential Requirement in Designing a Fall Online Course,” by Cathy Davidson. HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory).

An Emergency Guide (of Sorts) to Getting This Week’s Class Online in About an Hour (or So),” by Matt Crosslin. EduGeek Journal.

Coronavirus Has Led to a Rush of Online Teaching. Here’s Some Advice for Newly Remote Instructors,” by Jeffrey R. Young. EdSurge.

Teaching Intelligence: How to Take Your Classes Online,” by Catherine Shea Sanger. THE (Times Higher Education).

Lecturers Can’t Sustain the Hasty Pivot to Online Teaching. We Need a Plan B,” by Matt Jenner. THE (Times Higher Education).

Can Active Learning Co-Exist With Physically Distanced Classrooms?” by Doug Lederman. Inside Higher Ed.

How to Make Your Online Pivot Less Brutal,” Kevin Gannon, Chronicle of Higher Education.

Ten Time Saving, Stress-Reducing Tips for Online Teaching to Implement Before Your Semester Even Starts,” by Rebecca Barrett-Fox. (blog).

An Equitable Transition to Online Learning—Flexibility, Low Bandwidth, Cell Phones, and More,” by Lindsey Passenger Wieck. Pedagogy Playground (blog).

 “How to Rethink Science Lab Classes,” by John D. Loike and Marian Stoltz-Loike. Inside Higher Ed.

Covid-19 Planning for Fall 2020: A Closer Look at Hybrid-Flexible Course Design,” by Kevin Kelly, PhilOnEdTech.

9 Resources for When Coronavirus Moves Your Course Online,” by Rhea Kelly, Campus Technology.

Five Tips for Improving Online Discussion Boards,” Morton Ann Gernsbacher, Association for Psychological Science.

ما هو التعليم عن بعد وشروط نجاحه ؟” (“What Is Distance Education and What Are the Conditions for Its Success?”).


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