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10 principles-of-effective-online-teaching

  1. 1. 10 Principles of Effective Online Teaching: Best Practices in Distance Education Featuring content from A MAGNA PUBLICATION
  2. 2. 10 Principles of Effective Online Teaching:Best Practices in Distance Education In the traditional college classroom today, faculty and students arrive with a certain set of expectations, shaped largely by past experiences. And although students may need the occa- sional (or perhaps frequent) reminder of what’s required of them, there’s usually something very familiar about the experience for both faculty and students alike. In the online classroom, an entirely new set of variables enters the equation. It’s a little like trying to drive in a foreign country. You know how to drive, just like you know how to teach, but it sure is hard to get the hang of driving on the left side of the road, you’re not quite sure how far a kilometer is, and darn it if those road signs aren’t all in Japanese. This special report explains the “rules of the road” for online teaching and learning and features a series of columns that first appeared in the Distance Education Report’s “Between the Clicks,” a popular column by Dr. Lawrence C. Ragan, Director of Instructional Design and Development for Penn State’s World Campus. The articles contained in the report will help you establish online instructor best practices and expectations, and include the following principles of effective online teaching: • Show Up and Teach • Practice Proactive Course Management Strategies • Establish Patterns of Course Activities • Plan for the Unplanned • Response Requested and Expected • Think Before You Write • Help Maintain Forward Progress • Safe and Secure • Quality Counts • (Double) Click a Mile on My Connection These principles, developed at Penn State’s World Campus, outline the core behaviors of the successful online instructor, and help to define parameters around the investment of time on part of the instructor. In his articles, Ragan identifies potential barriers and limitations to online learning, and specific strategies to assist instructors in achieving the performance expectations. Christopher Hill Editor Distance Education Report2 10 Principles of Effective Online Teaching: Best Practices in Distance Education • www.FacultyFocus.com
  3. 3. Table of ContentsEstablishing Online Instructor Performance Best Practices and Expectations ..............................................................4Principles of Effective Online Teaching: #1 Show up and Teach ..................................................................................5Principles of Effective Online Teaching: #2 Practice Proactive Course Management Strategies ....................................7Principles of Effective Online Teaching: #3 Establish Patterns of Course Activities ......................................................9Principles of Effective Online Teaching: #4 Plan for the Unplanned............................................................................11Principles of Effective Online Teaching: #5 Response Requested and Expected ..........................................................13Principles of Effective Online Teaching: #6 Think Before You Write ........................................................................15Principles of Effective Online Teaching: #7 Help Maintain Forward Progress ............................................................17Principles of Effective Online Teaching: #8 Safe and Secures ....................................................................................19Principles of Effective Online Teaching: #9 Quality Counts ........................................................................................21Principles of Effective Online Teaching: #10 (Double) Click a Mile on My Connection ..............................................23 10 Principles of Effective Online Teaching: Best Practices in Distance Education • www.FacultyFocus.com 3
  4. 4. is to show up in the designatedEstablishing Online Instructor location, and conduct the course to the best of my ability through to suc-Performance Best Practices and cessful completion for the students. The responsibility of the learner is to meet the criteria for satisfactoryExpectations course completion as measured by the instructor. The asynchronous online classroom has little or no similarity to theBy Lawrence C. Ragan, PhD. classroom experience. There may be no “class schedule,” no meeting room or physical location, and, certainly in the asynchronous classroom, no was recently invited to conduct a how to perform—I would offerI Magna online seminar based on a research project identifying strate-gies to help faculty manage the online another interpretation. When we step into a physical defined timeframe for operation. Even the dynamics between teacher and student is challenged because online we can all appear to “be equal.”workload. Apparently this topic hit a Other than a vague sense of responsi-nerve of concern for faculty, support bility to “teach the course,” the in-staff and administrators alike. Theresponse to the presentation One senior faculty, well structor has little definition of these new and often ill-defined operatingsuggested this was an important area versed in the domain of online parameters. The course instructor isfor further exploration and develop- left on their own to figure out whatment. The presentation generated education, responded to my constitutes a successful learningmany more questions than I was able approach by saying, “if you experience.to address during the program. Many years ago I was in a faculty Helping faculty learn to survive andeven thrive online is critical if we are don’t tell us what is expected, meeting and we were discussing the issue of defining instructor perform-to realize the potential of this new how will we know what to do ance. I was soft-selling the idea oflearning space. This column will be defining these behaviors for fear ofmy attempt to tease out the most to succeed?” His point was insulting our faculty. One seniorcritical of the questions I received, to faculty, well versed in the domain ofreflect and respond, and to share my well taken. online education, responded to myinsights on a variety of topics. I hope approach by saying, “if you don’t tellyou will find it informative and us what is expected, how will wehelpful. know what to do to succeed?” His classroom we are stepping into a point was well taken. Although weCommunicating expectations time-tested model with well-defined assume that faculty know something During the presentation, I made operating parameters. There is a class of the face-to-face learning setting, wereference to a strategy that an institu- schedule and syllabus that tells me cannot assume that knowledge trans-tion can employ to help faculty save when to meet with my class, for how lates to the online classroom. It is ourtime online. I referred to a document long, and even the room location. responsibility to provide the instructorcreated at the World Campus as the There are a set of familiar tools such with the best definition of successful“10 commandments” of faculty per- as a chalkboard, a podium and performance for their success and theformance. Simply put, it is the articu- seating for the students. There is also success of their students.lation of what our organization an inherited protocol of classroom ex- Clearly defining and communicatingexpects from our online instructors in perience—I am the teacher and you the expected performance behaviorsorder to ensure a quality teaching and are the student. We both roughly un- for online instructors saves facultylearning experience. Although this derstand the dynamics of the interac- time because it eliminates uncertaintymay initially sound like a “heavy tions of this arrangement. Myhanded” approach—faculty being told responsibility as the course instructor PAGE 54 10 Principles of Effective Online Teaching: Best Practices in Distance Education • www.FacultyFocus.com
  5. 5. FROM PAGE 4 In recent discussions around this The approach I will take over the topic we acknowledged this is an next several columns will be toabout roles and responsibilities. evolving document based on what expand on the 10 principles outlinedThese suggested guidelines, based on we and our faculty have experienced in the document, providing abest practices gathered through expe- in our online activities. My intent in rationale, identification of barriersrience, serve as a benchmark for sharing this document more broadly and limitations, and specific strate-faculty to gauge their online course is to test our basic assumptions and gies to assist instructors in achievingactivities and manage their online refine our thinking. I welcome input the performance expectations.workload. The intent of the “Online and insights into this document andInstructor Performance Best Practices know that it will evolve and change Dr. Lawrence C. Ragan is theand Expectations” (or “10 over time. Additionally, each institu- Director of Instructional Design andCommandments”) document tion or organization must review and Development for Penn State’s Worldgenerated by the World Campus is consider how these expectations are Campus. Gnot meant to be all-inclusive but interpreted within the operatingrather to define a baseline of online context of their own online program.performance.Principles of Effective Online Teaching:#1 Show up and TeachBy Lawrence C. Ragan, PhD. n the previous article, I introduced What we know about teaching in the of activities for online instructors, andI the need to effectively define and communicate for instructors whatit is expected in the online classroom. classroom, good or bad, may not translate well online with somewhat complicated technologies, new social help to define parameters around the investment of time on part of the in- structor.This is based on the premise that, for orders, and media-rich resources. During a recent online faculty de-many instructors, the online teaching Without express guidance on what is velopment program we engaged in theand learning environment is different expected of the online instructor, they question of quality of performance byfrom the face-to-face educational are left to “figure it out,” leading to the online instructor. One individualsetting. Often, instructors teach in the frustrated students and probably a expressed their understanding that theface-to-face setting the way they were less than desirable teaching experi- online instructor should be availabletaught. That is, they use similar in- ence. to the students 24/7. I raised astructional strategies as instructors as The “10 principles” of online in- concern about this approach with thethose they engaged in as learners. struction were developed by Penn participants because I feared this This can be a good thing if they ex- State’s World Campus to specifically belief would inhibit good instructorsperienced sound instructional strate- define the performance expectations from getting involved in teachinggies during their formative years. of the online instructor. This online. It was clear that, althoughMost would agree however, that our document attempts to create an ex- well intended, asking the online in-own learning came in educational pectation of the core behaviors of the structor to be available, that is online,settings that were sometimes less than successful online instructor, and all the time was setting them up foroptimal. So, many instructors end up serves to clear the air on how the in- failure and frustration. We do notrepeating the same mistakes as their structor can be most effective in expect that dedication from the face-professors. Now, overlay the new teaching their online course. Thesedynamics of the online classroom. expectations establish a minimum set PAGE 6 10 Principles of Effective Online Teaching: Best Practices in Distance Education • www.FacultyFocus.com 5
  6. 6. FROM PAGE 5 general, this is true. Whereas in the and manage the learning experience face-to-face classroom the instructor more than in the face-to-faceto-face instructor, and nor should we may craft the learning as the class classroom. Students may come toexpect that of our online instructors. unfolds, the online classroom depend on the instructor as their Principle #1: Show Up and Teach generally requires more preparation primary link to the course and “Students in an online course rely and development time before the demand more time and attention indi-on the instructor to follow the estab- event begins. If you think of the time vidually since that attention is only alished course schedule and to deliver it takes in both the face-to-face and click away. One strategy oftenthe course within the scheduled time online classroom as roughly equal, employed by experienced instructorsframe. The online instructor is you begin to realize one difference is the use of a “frequently askedexpected to make schedule adjust- between the two modalities is a shift questions” section and well developedments as needed to manage special in the time and energy it takes to syllabus that addresses many of thecircumstances.” develop and deliver. More time may course dynamics most likely to This may seem like an unnecessary be spent prior to delivery of the generate student inquiries.statement of the obvious. The online online classroom with more energy ininstructor is expected to conduct the teaching once the class has begun. The Role of the LMSclass from beginning to end and to This approach creates a more stable Most learning management systemsmake adjustments when necessary in and usually more enjoyable teaching provide a rich array of tools that assistorder for the student to complete the experience for the instructor because the faculty in attending to the detailslearning experience. However, the they are not continuing to create of course management. For example,necessity of this statement is borne of course material while also providing reporting functions such asthe misimpression that the online instruction. This approach however summaries of student online activity,class “teaches itself.” Since most of also depends on the instructor being participation in discussion groups andthe course is already authored and an active participant in the online completion of course assignments candesigned for online delivery, the in- classroom managing the learning at a easily be generated and tracked. It isstructor may believe they simply need distance. to the advantage of the online instruc-to serve as the proverbial “guide on Of all the responsibilities of the tor to become familiar and competentthe side” as the students navigate the online instructor, the role as with the learning management systemlearning system. “teacher,” however that is defined, is in order to take full advantage of this Additional evidence of this belief the most critical. For many, the design capability.was expressed early on in the devel- and development of the learning Ultimately it is the role of the in-opment of online learning, when space prior to delivery can be a liber- structor to oversee the course fromsome educators expressed concern ating experience. For once, more beginning to end. Not “showing upthat the online class could be “self attention is placed on interacting with for class” in the online environmenttaught” and reduce the need for the the students around the course leads to confused and frustratedinstructor. Although there are courses content than worrying about the gen- learners. The online classroomdesigned as self-instructed modules, eration of tomorrow’s slide presenta- requires diligent attention to coursethis is not the predominant model for tion or handout materials. Faculty are progress. The face-to-face classroomthe effective online classroom. The free to concentrate on responding to provides a defined set of parametersrole of the instructor is actually more student inquiries regarding the course including time and location for bothimportant than ever before. The content, addressing particularly instructor and learner. The onlinestudents are looking to the instructor difficult subject matter or discussing classroom does as well--the parame-to serve as the guide, facilitator and relevant topics in discussion spaces. ters simply need to be communicated“teacher” and the need for them to do Many faculty respond that they enjoy and managed for a successful learningso is pronounced because of the lack this aspect of online learning more experience for both the instructor andof face-to-face interactions. than face-to-face because they can be the student. One commonly held belief about more efficient and more equally reachthe learning design and development all students. Dr. Lawrence C. Ragan is theof the online classroom is that the The online classroom does however Director of Instructional Design andcore teaching material, resources, and have a slight drawback in this area as Development for Penn State’s Worldinstructional strategies need to be in well. That is, the instructor is required Campus. Gplace prior to the start of the class. In to “attend” to the classroom dynamics6 10 Principles of Effective Online Teaching: Best Practices in Distance Education • www.FacultyFocus.com
  7. 7. face-to-face classroom, if they fail they fail and it’s their own fault!” InPrinciples of Effective Online most cases, online instructors use the same philosophy toward managingTeaching: #2 Practice Proactive the educational activities and partici- pation as employed in the face-to-Course Management Strategies face classroom. The level of oversight and management of the educational activities is fundamentally a personal choice and reflects an individual phi- losophy as well as the practical limi-By Lawrence C. Ragan tations presented by the educational setting. The degree of course man- agement must be balanced with the n the previous article, I discussed gies include, but are not limited to,I time and energy available and the first expectation of instructors monitoring assignment submissions, demands of the course structure. It is teaching online as “Show Up and communicating and reminding also dependent upon the age and ex-Teach.” The primary point of this students of missed and/or upcoming perience of both the instructor andsimple statement was to explicitly deadlines, and making course the learner.define the anticipation that the in- Initially, a different level of coursestructor actively participate in all di- With a new course, new management by the online instructormensions of the online classroom. may be required. This instructionalMost importantly however, “Show Up instructor and perhaps new oversight is necessary because theand Teach” was designed to counter online classroom presents a signifi-the misperception that, once created, students, it will be necessary cant shift in the understanding ofthe online classroom can manage roles and responsibilities on part ofitself. to monitor and respond to both the instructor and the student. Since, in most cases, the course student activity (or lack Also, the degree of course manage-content has been created and stored ment will evolve and become morein the learning management system, thereof) more proactively. efficient with experience. The instruc-some instructors may believe that tor will learn how to clearly definetheir role of providing the course progress adjustments where and and communicate student expecta-content is complete and therefore when necessary. tions as well as define and communi-their role as instructors in the online NOTE: The term “course manage- cate their own performanceexperience is complete. Just as we ment” can encompass many dimen- standards. With a new course, newexpect in the face-to-face classroom, sions of the educational experience. instructor and perhaps new students,the online instructor is required to be For example, managing student it will be necessary to monitor andvisible and active in leading the rosters, assigning team structures, respond to student activity (or lacklearning experience. The second ex- grading assignments and submitting thereof) more proactively. Throughpectation in the list describes the type grades and taking discipline action trial and error, the instructor willof active participation required in the can all be part of “course manage- develop a sense of where and whenonline classroom and speaks to the ment.” For the purposes of this to insert course management strate-need for class oversight and article, “course management” is used gies that lead to the best learningmanagement. to refer to those activities directly outcomes for the students positively. related to the teaching and learning The challenge for the online in-Principle # 2: Practice activities involved in the online structor is to find the degree of inter-Proactive Course Management course. action and intervention that worksStrategies Now I wholly expect this expecta- with the dynamics of their online The online instructor can help tion to raise a few eyebrows and even classroom. The goal is to structurecreate a successful learning experi- draw a knee-jerk reaction of “I expect the course management strategies soence by practicing proactive course my students to monitor their ownmanagement strategies. These strate- progress in the course, just like in my PAGE 8 10 Principles of Effective Online Teaching: Best Practices in Distance Education • www.FacultyFocus.com 7
  8. 8. FROM PAGE 7 ment system can serve to identify and improve the communications of students not keeping pace with the expectations to the learners.that the online learner is able to course. An automated response may With proper design, management,control their own learning experi- be programmed to remind those indi- tracking and adjustments, the man-ence. As may be expected, the more viduals of missed assignments. The agement of the learning activities ofactively managed classroom will general course announcement tool the online classroom can lead to aplace more demands of time and can be used to remind all students of rewarding learning experience for allenergy on the instructor. The expecta- important deadlines or upcoming course participants. The goal is totion that the instructor teach as well course events. If the large enrolling empower the online learner to takeas manage the online classroom can course has multiple discussion responsibility for managing their ownplace additional responsibilities onto spaces, other creative solutions may learning experience and free the in-an already busy online instructor. If be required to monitor student structor to concentrate their time andthe instructor is busy with sending participation. energy on crafting a truly engagedreminders to individual students learning experience. Watching andregarding missed class assignments learning from others, using studentor project completion dates they may feedback, analyzing evaluation datanot be spending time responding to The goal is to empower the and frequently asked questions caninquiries and interactions around provide insights into where and howcourse content. After the course has online learner to take to improve the learning experience.been taught a time or two, it may be Some are of the belief that the toolshelpful to reflect on the time spent responsibility for managing and capabilities of the onlineteaching the online class, the instruc- their own learning experience classroom can lead to a richer andtor may reveal “time drains” of more equitable learning experienceclassroom management that detract and free the instructor to than the face-to-face classroomfrom the primary role of providing because we can provide communica-instruction. concentrate their time and tions to all participants. Certainly the There is an additional dimension opportunity exists to structure aof this performance expectation that energy on crafting a truly learning experience rich in interac-relates to the number of students engaged learning experience. tion, student-managed and focusedenrolled in the course. Low-enrolling on addressing the needs of thecourses (under 40 students) enable a students in attaining the coursehigher degree of instructor oversight learning outcomes.due to the student-teacher ratio. It is The Key to Successsimply easier to monitor the activities Regardless of the size of course en-of 40 students than 400. These rollments, the key to a successful Dr. Lawrence C. Ragan is thecourses are typically designed for teaching and learning experience for Director of Instructional Design andmore interaction and dialogue both the learner and instructor is Development for Penn State’s Worldbetween course participants. communication. Clearly defining and Campus. GMonitoring and managing student communicating the expectations willperformance (or lack thereof) may address the uncertainly of what rolehappen by simply reviewing the and responsibility is required of eachposting log or activity records in the participant. The efficiency and effec-learning management system. A tiveness of this communication willquick follow-up email can remind the evolve with experience. Chances arestudent of the required class assign- it will not be perfect the first, secondment, or missed homework. or maybe even third offering. In medium to large enrollment Refining the course management is acourses, a different approach to continual “work in progress” thatcourse management may be required. requires a commitment on part of theTypically the course activity monitor- instructor to carefully monitor, adjusting tools within the learning manage-8 10 Principles of Effective Online Teaching: Best Practices in Distance Education • www.FacultyFocus.com
  9. 9. fact, some of the early marketingPrinciples of Effective Online materials spoke to the ease of access with phrases such as, “your degree is just a click away!” and “earn yourTeaching: #3 Establish Patterns degree on your terms!” For the traditional-age collegeof Course Activities student the draw to take a course that did not require attending classes at 8:00 am Monday morning also had great appeal. It seemed that everyone could find a reason to like the flexi-By Lawrence C. Ragan, PhD. bility of study based on one’s personal schedule and needs. As it turns out, the potential of the o far in this series we’ve of work serves to define the bound-S defined several fundamental “principles” of teaching in theonline classroom. Number 1: “Show aries between the online class activi- ties and the rest of life.” “timeless” classroom was slightly oversold for the majority of online coursework. Although there are ex- ceptions, most online courses followUp and Teach" expressed the expecta- One of the most challenging a defined schedule of operation fromtion that the instructor, although not start to finish.required to be physically present in a aspects of designing an online One of the most challenginglocation, be an active presence as the classroom is working without aspects of designing an onlineteacher in the online classroom. classroom is working without theNumber 2: “Practice Proactive Course the confines of time and confines of time and location.Management Strategies," stressed the Although this may have great initialimportance of instructor engagement location. Although this may appeal to both learner and instructor,in the online classroom and taking aproactive role in managing the have great initial appeal to the reality of this lack of operating parameters becomes quickly evident.learning activities in the virtual both learner and instructor, the Courses without time and locationlearning space. This article focuses operating parameters can becomeon one aspect of the online classroom reality of this lack of operating management challenges for busythat benefits both the learner and the students participating in online classinstructor, that of establishing the parameters becomes quickly activities while still balancing thepace and sequence of learning events evident. demands of work and family life. Forand activities. the instructor, the lack of time and location constraints can cause aPrinciple # 3: Establish The Seemingly “Timeless” blending of class and non-class activ-Patterns of Course Activities Classroom ities. Establishing a pattern of course “Although the online classroom en- In the beginning, the online activity and communicating thisvironment provides tremendous flexi- classroom was seen as having sequence to the learner enables thebility of time and place of study, tremendous advantage over a fixed- learner to develop a plan of study toestablishing and communicating a time course format. The “answer” for address the requirements of thecourse pace and pattern of work can those busy adults who wanted to course. This course schedule andaid both instructor and student and continue their education without pattern also aids the instructor toalleviate confusion of course leaving home, work and their contain the course-related activitiesoperation. For the student, an estab- community was touted as “study at to an appropriate duration andlished pattern of course activities your convenience, anytime and any workload.allows for planning and management place!” Who could disagree with theof other non-course activities around concept of getting an advanced Learner Benefitstheir e-learning activities. For the in- degree without leaving home or In many ways, the operation of thestructor, establishing and communi- needing to take a leave-of-absence PAGE 10cating a course schedule and pattern from the workplace? As a matter of 10 Principles of Effective Online Teaching: Best Practices in Distance Education • www.FacultyFocus.com 9
  10. 10. FROM PAGE 9 class day is “over.” The temptation to 2.Use the syllabus or course infor- reach out and be available to the mation page to communicate theon-line classroom resembles the face- online learner all the time is hard to schedule of course-related activi-to-face format more than it does the resist when the laptop and wireless ties.independent learning model of the computers make accessing the course 3.Use a dynamic communicationscorrespondence distance education so easy. The very advantages of flexi- method such as group email or theclass. There are set start- and end- bility and freedom of choice regarding general class announcement pagesdates. Tasks need to be completed and where and when to conduct the course to inform the class of unplannedassignments submitted within defined turns into a trap that makes the in- changes to the course activitytimeframes. In some cases, an actual structor feel the online classroom schedule. If possible, describe whysynchronous event such as a chat demands constant and ready access. the change has occurred.session, teleconference or webinar The results can be an exhausted and 4.Provide the instructor “workstyle meeting may be required. The in- overwhelmed instructor, even when schedule” informing students ofdividual learner may progress through class size is manageable. As in the the time constraints of your coursethe course material and take self-check face-to-face classroom, online instruc- related activities. These may alsoquizzes on their own but there are fre- tors need to establish defined and rea- be posted to the syllabus orquently group projects, presentations, sonable work periods where welcome letter.and discussion forums requiring a course-related activities occur. Thesehigh degree of team-work and work timeframes help to confine Summarycooperation. course work to a time frame separate The many advantages of “anytime, The challenge for the online learner from other life activities (such as anyplace” education can also presentis to establish the discipline and time family time and vacations!). challenges for both learner and in-management skills to keep paced with Defining and communicating these structor in time management andthe requirements of the online work patterns also aids the learner in operation. Establishing and maintain-classroom. Some research has understanding that the instructor “has ing a predictable pattern of coursesuggested, at least anecdotally, that a life.” Although instructors are open studies can serve the learner bytraditional aged learners and younger to receiving emails and course com- providing a foundation for planningmay be more challenged in the online munications at all hours of the day other life activities. For the instructor,classroom because they have not and night, the learner quickly comes a defined schedule of class activitiesdeveloped these core skills. to realize that the instructors’ response can serve to prevent the class from in- A course with a predictable pattern (except in cases of dire emergencies, terfering with other responsibilitiesof operation and sequence of events of course) will be confined to a and balance the expectations ofprovides the online learner with the defined timeframe. Both learner and learners who may desire 24/7 accessstructure they need to succeed. An in- instructor fall into a comfortable to their “virtual teacher.”structional design model with consis- rhythm of class-related activities. Onetent pacing and course activities well-seasoned online instructor I know Dr. Lawrence C. Ragan is theallows the learner more control over shared with me that his students know Director of Instructional Design andtheir online learning experience. For exactly when he is available and when Development for Penn State’s Worldexample, if lessons begin and end on he is not and they behave accordingly. Campus. Gconsistent days and assignments aredue on a regular schedule the learner The Key to Successcan plan other life activities around A few simple strategies for applyingthese aspects of their online course. the principle of establishing a patternWhere the course structure deviates of course activities include:from an established pattern, early noti- 1.Establish and maintain a predica-fication and reminders are helpful in ble course pattern of course-order to aid the learner in making the related activities. This may includenecessary adjustments. such activities as “opening” new lessons, due dates and times forInstructor Benefits assignments, schedules for syn- An unforeseen challenge for the chronous activities and self-assess-online instructor is knowing when the ment and online quizzes/exams.10 10 Principles of Effective Online Teaching: Best Practices in Distance Education • www.FacultyFocus.com
  11. 11. the established patterns with thePrinciples of Effective Online online learner serves to reduce the stress and anxiety of pattern adjustments.Teaching: #4 Plan for the Life HappensUnplanned The good news and bad news of in- structing in an online course is that there are fewer technology-related excuses for not being able to continue the course operation. Travel,By Lawrence C. Ragan, PhD. either local, nationally, or interna- tionally does not typically deter course activities because a reliable he 10 principles of online in- quirement for those who must travel internet connection is often anT structor performance have thus far focused on proactive strate-gies that ensure the instructor is and have a desire to continue the ed- ucational activities. The predictability and accountability of established “internet café” away. With a little preplanning, course operation can continue without much adjustment or interruption. The bad news isvisible and active in the online patterns of course activities allowclassroom. Somewhat predictably, both the instructor and student the there is little room for “downtime”this article addresses the need to for the online instructor! This speakscommunicate changes to the estab- to the need to consider the pacing oflished pattern of course activities. the learning events during the time of Established course-related course design. Carefully consider thePrinciple # 4: Plan for the cycle of course activities in relation toUnplanned patterns reduce stress and the length and duration of the Online learners look to the instruc- required student activities, a.k.a. frustration on the part of the homework, so that the pace is com-tor as their main source of course in- fortable and doable for both learnerformation and progress. If an learner because they provideinstructor will be unable to log into and instructor.the course for more than four predictable patterns of Even in the best-designed coursebusiness days (e.g., during profes- however, “life happens.” Little andsional travel), the instructor is asked activities. large surprises can impact the paceto give one weeks notice to the and pattern of the course operation.students. In emergency cases, in- If travel schedules and special eventsstructors are asked to notify students ability to plan and manage the are known prior to the courseas soon as possible if they will need learning sequence. Changes to these offering, consider these events whento be away from the course and when patterns can confuse and frustrate the designing the course syllabus. Forthey will provide additional course learner when not appropriately those other small or not-so-smalloperation information. informed. occasions when “life happens,” In the online classroom, the in- having and communicating a strategyCreatures of Habit structor may be the primary link for informing the students of these One of the touted advantages of the between the learner and the educa- changes can go a long way to main-online learning space is the flexibility tional institution. Established course- taining course continuity. In manyit allows the instructor and the related patterns reduce stress and cases the interruptions may be brieflearner. Because in an asynchronous frustration on the part of the learner and simply change the due date of anonline course there are no fixed because they provide predictable assignment or limit instructor accessmeetings times or locations, the time patterns of activities. When these for a few days. These types of courseof instruction or study is at the dis- patterns change, either by planned or adjustments are easily communicatedcretion of the participant. Although unplanned circumstances, that all- to the students via the announcementall class participants appreciate this important predictability is inter-educational freedom, it is often a re- rupted. Communicating changes to PAGE 12 10 Principles of Effective Online Teaching: Best Practices in Distance Education • www.FacultyFocus.com 11
  12. 12. message describing the interruption concern should something more sig- FROM PAGE 11 and when the course activities will nificant happen.page or whatever “all class” commu- resume, alleviates the anxiety of thenication tool is used in the course. learner whose primary contact is The Key to Success It is not necessary (unless you through the course instructor. A few simple strategies for applyingwant to) to share with the students Informing the students at the the principle of establishing a patternwhat event has caused the course beginning of the course, for example of course activities include:operation adjustment. Simply through a brief statement in the 1.Develop and plan a communica-informing the students of the change tions strategy for managing briefwith a definite “resume function” and more significant interrup-date will allow the student to adjust tions to the course operation.their course responsibilities accord- Having thought through 2.Communicate to students howingly. For example, when an course interruption informationunplanned event or travel may limit communications strategies for will be communicated.your ability to maintain course partic- 3.Clearly define for the studentsipation, simply stating that, “Due to the nature of the interruption, the both short term and long term anticipated duration, any impactsan unexpected change in scheduleplans I will be unavailable for the to course operation or activities,next two days for ENG 101. Due to scenarios enables all class and when you expect to resumemy schedule change, the Lesson 4 as- course participation. It is up tosignment, Loop Design Schematic, participants to manage those your discretion to define theshould be completed and submitted reason for the interruption.by Friday June 20th.” times when schedules change, 4.Arrange with a departmental staff There are times when life happens assistant, graduate or teachinglarger than a simple date change or assistant or colleague a plan for course adjustments need to beschedule adjustment. In these cases managing for larger/longeryou may be unable to communicate course interruptions.with the class members. Planning for made, and “life happens.”these events can be more challeng- Summarying. If there is a teaching or grad For the online learner, the instruc-assistant supporting the course tor may serve as the primary point ofdelivery, they may be able to step in course syllabus, enables them to contact with their online learning ac-and pick up the course communica- manage their activities accordingly. tivities. When that service is inter-tions. In other cases, an effective Additionally, providing contact infor- rupted, confusion and anxiety maystrategy may be to provide the mation regarding more long term or arise. Having thought through com-students an “emergency contact” “larger” emergencies situations can munications strategies for both shortsuch as a departmental staff assistant also serve to reduce student anxiety. term and long term scenarios enablesor colleague who has agreed to serve all class participants to manage thoseas a point of contact for the students. Instructor Benefits times when schedules change, courseKeeping in mind that in many cases Having a prescribed strategy for adjustments need to be made, andthe distant student cannot “wander managing and communicating “life happens.”around the halls” seeking informa- unplanned schedule changes cantion on the interruption to the course reduce the “panic” reaction on the Dr. Lawrence C. Ragan is theactivities. part of the instructor. Clearly commu- Director of Instructional Design and nicating to the students the method Development for Penn State’s WorldLearner Benefits you will use (email, text messaging, Campus. G Knowing how changes to the course postings etc…) to announcedefined schedule of course events course changes provides you and thewill be communicated greatly reduces students a predictable method ofthe stress for the online learner when handling such events. Having achanges occur. An email, course an- “back-up” plan for managing largernouncement page posting or phone course interruptions can reduce your12 10 Principles of Effective Online Teaching: Best Practices in Distance Education • www.FacultyFocus.com
  13. 13. with the departmental office to seek resolution to an issue. In most of thePrinciples of Effective Online research examining student satisfac- tion with the online learning environ-Teaching: #5 Response ment, connectedness to the instructor is frequently cited as the mostRequested and Expected rewarding and potentially most frus- trating aspect of learner satisfaction. A Reasonable Response TimeframeBy Lawrence C. Ragan, PhD. The challenge for the online instruc- tor is defining a reasonable timeframe for responding to student inquiries, as- signments, or discussion postings. An he “10 principles” of online in- how we do our work and play. WithT instructor once stated that they fully structor performance have thus the speed of our modems and penetra- intended to be active and responsive far focused on proactive strate- tion of broadband access, we have to their learners by checking into thegies that ensure the instructor is come to count on an immediate and course “at least once a week!”visible and active in the online ready response to our inquiries and Needless to say, this response rateclassroom. This article discusses a communications. We become annoyed would be unacceptable to most partici-“reasonable” time frame for instruc- at the web site that takes too long to pants when the entire online learningtors in responding to student inquiries. load or the colleague or family experience may be only 14 or 15 member that takes to long to respond weeks long! In a course with a shorterPrinciple # 5: Response to our email. It’s as though someone duration, this rate or response wouldRequested and Expected slipped a little note under our door prove detrimental to student progress. Timely instructor feedback is marked “urgent reply requested” when Left to individual instructor discre-essential for the online learner in order we receive an email requiring a tion, a “reasonable” responseto manage their learning experience. response. Each email seems to be timeframe may vary from 24 to 72Instructors are expected to provide marked “urgent!” hours. Depending on the nature of thefeedback to student inquiries within Whether we agree or not on the course, content domain, expectationsone business day. If the instructor amount of time we expect until we get of the audience, course duration, andcannot provide a detailed response a response, we have developed indi- the support system provided, thiswithin one business day, the instructor vidual “norms” for how long it should range may be considered acceptable.is asked to respond to the student take before we send a second “gentle Industry standards suggest a reason-within one business day to note when reminder” message or, finally in frus- able response timeframe of onea more detailed response will be tration, pick up the phone and attempt business day (24 hours) during theprovided. a response via the old fashion person- week and 48 hours over a weekend. to-person voice method! Don’t you This window of response enables bothExpecting a Response NOW hate it when your inquiry goes unan- the instructor and learner to establish Much of our academic and personal swered within our expected time a rhythm of interaction that supportslives now include some dimension of frame? learner progress and is manageable forinformation technology. It has become A delay in the response rate for the the instructor. It also implies that thethe expectation that we all have, and online learner is complicated by the instructor is attending to the courseuse, email accounts and instant fact that further progress in their activities at least once per weekday,messaging systems for connecting academic work may hinge on the in- and at least once over the weekend.with our children. We are quick to structor’s reply or feedback to an idea Without clearly defined guidelinesuse web searches for information or question. In the case of the true and expectations, instructors are left togathering before setting out for a distance online learner, this delay of determine their own standards leadingvacation or purchasing a large ticket response is multiplied by the lack of to wider variations between courses. Ifitem. The impact of these communica- contact with the learning institution. the online learner is participating intion and information tools is at first The learner is less able to stop by the PAGE 14subtle but quickly becomes integral to instructor’s office or even to check in 10 Principles of Effective Online Teaching: Best Practices in Distance Education • www.FacultyFocus.com 13
  14. 14. why, after 4 hours, they still did not of course activities include: FROM PAGE 13 hear from their instructor. This 1. Clearly understand program or in-several online courses, this can lead to approach also defines the responsibili- stitutional expectations for instruc-frustration and aggravation as the ties for the instructor and prevents the tor response rates to studentstudent accommodates each instruc- impression that they must be available inquiries, lesson assignmenttor’s rate of response. A programmatic 24/7. feedback or discussion postings.or institutional standard allows a more 2. Clearly describe for the learnerconsistent expectation for both the in- Learner Benefits what they may expect by way ofstructor and learner. For the online learner, knowing the response time. The instructor may defined response timeframe of the in- also wish to define the courseSetting the Expectation Too structor enables them to plan and “operating hours” and otherHigh sequence their learning experience. If special time-related course Some instructors view the rate of the timeframe described will not features. For example, posting aresponse as a measure of the quality suffice in a given situation the student notice that Monday eveningof their instruction. The quicker they may wish to seek alternative contact between 6:00 and 8:00 pm EST therespond, the higher they perceive the with the instructor. A well articulated instructor will be available on IMquality. Although this is an admirable response plan or protocol also for course-related consulting.goal, it can also set up unreasonable balances the unreasonable expecta- 3. Monitor student inquiriesexpectations on the part of their tions that the instructor is available carefully. If similar inquiries arelearners. The old adage of “the 24/7 and will respond immediately to received on an aspect of theshortest time of response becomes the every inquiry. The online learner must course operation or content, itlongest expected” can set unreason- respect the need for the instructor to may suggest a refinement in theable expectations on part of the separate the course activities from instructions, adjustment to thelearner. An often-told story to illustrate other work and family responsibilities. content, or additional clarification.this point is of the instructor who,working late one evening, responded Instructor Benefits Summaryimmediately to a student’s inquiry at By providing a defined acceptable For the online learner, timely2:00 am. The student, of course, was window of response the instructor can feedback from the instructor to apretty impressed, thinking, “this plan their course-related activities, and student inquiry serves as a vital linkteacher’s available 24/7.” After several control the expectations that they between learner and learning system.hours of interaction, the instructor respond immediately to every inquiry. Establishing and communicating aquit working. The student, continuing A one-business day/two-day weekend response rate expectation canto send in assignments, assumed rule allows the instructor the freedom eliminate the guessing and frustrationsomething had happened to the in- of managing their course work. It also of not receiving an immediatestructor when they stopped respond- provides an incentive to check and response. Excessive delays, foring at 4:00 am. Finally in a panic, the monitor course level activities on a example longer than 72 hours, maystudent called the instructor at home daily basis. Included in their response inhibit student progress in the courseto make sure nothing terrible had plan may be a description for the and will most definitely lead tohappened! student of the type of information they student dissatisfaction with their Establishing and communicating a can expect a response to, and the learning system.plan for responding to course inquiries nature and timeline of the response. Incan alleviate much of the confusion order to reduce frivolous inquires, the Dr. Lawrence C. Ragan is theand aggravation for all course partici- instructor may indicate, for example, Director of Instructional Design andpants. This plan of response may that the student should first consult Development for Penn State’s Worldinclude the normal course “hours” for the course syllabus for the information Campus. Gwhen the learner may expect a prior to sending the instructor anresponse, a method of “emergency inquiry.contact information,” and theintended timeframe in which the The Key to Successstudent may expect a response. This A few simple strategies for applyingway, the student is not left wondering the principle of establishing a pattern14 10 Principles of Effective Online Teaching: Best Practices in Distance Education • www.FacultyFocus.com
  15. 15. communications stripped of other visual cues. This leaves text messagesPrinciples of Effective Online delivered open for a degree more of in- terpretation or misinterpretation by theTeaching: #6 Think Before receiver. Although we have an increas- ingly rich set of media-based commu-You Write nications tools such as voice delivered via podcasts or audio messages or even video, the vast majority of dialogue between sender and receiver is primarily text-based. Add to thisBy Lawrence C. Ragan, PhD. text-based communications system the potential global reach of online learning and the cultural aspects of s our series on the principles of cations continues to prove a critical communications quickly becomes aA effective online teaching continues, this article intro-duces the importance of careful and piece of the success of the online teaching and learning experience. In today’s online classroom, student- factor for these online exchanges. Most experienced online instructors can relay a variety of stories illustrat-thoughtful communications from the to-student and student-to-instructor in- ing the frustration of a dialogue with aonline instructor to the class partici- teractions remain an important student that went awry due to a misin-pants. component of the learning experience. terpretation or misunderstanding of Increasingly studies report that this is the intended message. These “commu-Principle # 6: Think Before You a vitally important feature of success nication lessons” temper the instruc-Write for the online learner. These interac- tor’s next response and, through trial Feedback on assignments is most tions, conducted largely via text char- and error, the online instructorhelpful to students when clear and acters on a screen, may be delivered improves these messages to removeconcise language is used to explain the through static messages such as in- room for misinterpretation or misun-degree to which relevant course structions embedded in a lesson or di- derstanding. Even then, it is always in-outcomes have been met. Even when rections on completing an assignment, teresting to experience the misuse orstudent questions are vague, instruc- or as dynamic messages delivered via confusion of what appears to be ators are encouraged to stimulate a chat windows, emails, or text “perfectly clear” message or instruc-dialog that will help students under- messaging. Regardless of the format of tions. When these messages arestand and communicate their needs. the messages, they each share a intended for delivery to the entire potential common delivery flaw, they class, the value of clear and conciseThe Whole Package are presented without the rich set of text is magnified! The promise of online learning has verbal or visual cues provided in acreated tremendous excitement and face-to-face exchange. Taking Advantage of theenergy because of the richness of the Formatmedia, the ability to serve learners A “Simple” Text Message Sent There are several advantages asyn-anytime and anyplace, and the con- It is widely accepted that the spoken chronous communications providesvenience of learning within the word is not the only message sent or that can help in addressing the deficitscontext of our daily lives. With received during a face-to-face commu- of delivering text-based messages.increased broadband connections, the nications exchange. Subtle or not-so- With forethought and planning, theseimmediacy of “connection” via syn- subtle messages are also advantages can turn what appears tochronous and asynchronous technolo- communicated via voice intonations, be a limitation into a positivegies creates a feeling of almost instant facial expressions or body language. It dimension of online communications.community. One of the most challeng- turns out that what we hear is contex- The most obvious is that, due to theing dimensions however of the online tualized in how it is presented creating asynchronous nature of the onlineclassroom remains the aspect of a complex system of meaning. In the course, time for crafting and reflectinghuman interactions. As it turns out, online classroom, dependent largely on a response is more available thanthe technology is often not a limita- on the written word, the expression of the immediacy needed in the face-to-tion. The delicate and intricate art and ideas, opinions, humor, criticisms orscience of human-to-human communi- praise represents a “simpler” form of PAGE 16 10 Principles of Effective Online Teaching: Best Practices in Distance Education • www.FacultyFocus.com 15
  16. 16. FROM PAGE 15 appropriate parameters of that same interpret the message or instructions discussion in the online forum. This and more time engaged in the lessonface classroom. Another advantage can be done through a thorough de- activity. In addition, language that isallows instructors to reuse a single, scription of the rules for engagement clear and concise aids the globalwell-crafted response to the more “pre- and perhaps example of acceptable learner by removing barriers of under-dictable” questions or challenges that and unacceptable language in the standing local or contextualizedmight arise in the course. Frequently a exercise instructions. language.collection of these responses can beamassed and accessed on an assign- The Role of Netiquette Instructor Benefitsment-by-assignment basis. As in any set of interactions, under- For the instructor, the time allottedAdditionally, these messages can be standing and adhering to the rules of in many asynchronous learning onlineimproved over time based on their ef- dialogue and interactions is critical for experiences provides the ability tofectiveness. To avoid seeming effective communications. This is even craft a well-thought-out response or“canned,” the instructor can freshen truer for online exchanges. Some delve deeper into the student inquiryup the response with a personal might suggest that we have not yet, as in order to better understand thereference or specific point based on an a society, agreed upon a common set problem. Developing a set of preparedindividual’s post. Various writers from of norms for online communications. responses to common instructionalCicero to Pascal have been credited Many of the rules applied are contex- problems improves the instructionalwith the quote “if I’d had more time I tual to the particulars of the online efficiency, enables the use of “best”would have written a shorter letter.” communications forum. Online responses, and allows the instructorThe online classroom provides the etiquette rules may be provided as time to further develop supportingluxury of that time to craft the general guidelines at the start of the materials that aid student learning.effective and short, concise message. course, or in situations where special Special care is called for when rules apply clearly defined. It is also The Key to Successcrafting feedback to a student. The the responsibility of the instructor and A few simple strategies for applyingsubtleties of humor, for example, or hold participants accountable to a set the principle of establishing a patternthe use of colloquialisms can of engagement rules. of course activities include:challenge the receiver to interpret the Although this may seem like “extra 1.View student difficulties with as-correct meaning of the instructor’s work” for the online instructor, institu- signments or course activities asmessage. Simple, clear and direct tional policies defining appropriate an opportunity to refine and(tactful and polite of course) responses online communications behavior may improve communications.will be of more help to the learner already be available. Of course the in- 2.Establish and communicate thethan witty sayings or sarcastic structor is also to be held accountable etiquette expectations for thecomments that may work in a face-to- for adhering to and applying standards course exchanges. Also establish aface exchange but do not translate of behavior in the online classroom. protocol for holding students ac-well to the online environment. The Over time, the example set by the countable for adhering to the com-online instructor is also encouraged to online instructor establishes the ac- munications expectations.engage the learner where possible, in ceptable and unacceptable behaviors 3.Establish a “frequently askeda dialogue expanding and exposing the for the rest of the class participants. questions” document thatstudent’s struggles before providing addresses potential areas offeedback. Learner Benefits student confusion or inquires. The global nature of the online Clearly defined communications, 4.Establish a database of responsesclassroom exacerbates the communi- whether pre-written or provided spon- that may be used as feedback tocations difficulties for students not of taneously, serve to improve the student assignments. Refine andthe same geographic location. Not learning efficiency by removing doubt, improve this database based ononly can message points be lost or confusion, or questions that detract experience of the responses effec-misinterpreted, but also the style of from the learning task. Learners tiveness.writing can confuse, offend, or benefit from a well-crafted assignmentmislead the learner. The instructor feedback that has been developed and Summarywho takes pride in the “intellectual refined over time by getting the best Of all the dimensions of the onlinerigor” of face-to-face debate in an response possible. They will spend PAGE 17online course, needs to articulate the less time trying to decipher or16 10 Principles of Effective Online Teaching: Best Practices in Distance Education • www.FacultyFocus.com
  17. 17. FROM PAGE 16 Establishing and adhering to a set of satisfying teaching and learning expe- rules for communications behavior rience for all class participants.classroom, interactions between class can reduce the occurrence of misun-participants remains a critical and derstanding or confusion. Finally, Dr. Lawrence C. Ragan is thechallenging factor of success. taking full advantage of the unique Director of Instructional Design andDeveloping and continuously features of the online classroom Development for Penn State’s Worldimproving the static messages can including time to reflect and well- Campus. Ggreatly improve the online experience crafted responses, can lead to a morefor both student and instructor.Principles of Effective Online Teaching:#7 Help Maintain Forward ProgressBy Lawrence C. Ragan, PhD. he 10 principles of online in- students are able to monitor their random meetings between instructorT structor performance have thus far focused on proactive strate-gies that ensure the instructor is visible progress in the course through subtle and not-so subtle strategies. The in- structor typically establishes a and student separated by geographical distance or time zones differences are obviously less likely to happen online.and active in the online classroom. procedure and precedent for how as- The online student is more dependentReturning assignment and exam grades signments are graded and returned and upon the instructor to post or commu-in a timely manner enables the student announces when the grades will be nicate graded progress through otherto stay on track and make positive posted to the most recent quiz or more formal techniques.progress in their studies is the subject exam. If this information is withheld In many cases, course assignmentsof number 7. from the students, the constant are inter-related or sequential in inquiries and questions may be enough nature, for example writing assign-Principle #7: Help Maintain to stimulate completion of the task on ments constructed over the duration ofForward Progress the part of the instructor. Additionally, the course and culminating in the final Students in the online classroom rely the students have immediate and ready writing project. Quizzes and exams, aon the timely return of assignment and access to the instructor via after-class rich learning opportunity for “learningexam grades in order to maintain discussions, office hours, or casual en- what and how to learn,” can beprogress in their studies. The instructor counters in the departmental office. effective for providing correctiveis asked to facilitate this process by Each of these techniques serves to feedback to students as they progresssubmitting grades of all digitally inform the savvy student as to their through the course. In some cases, ad-formatted assignments and exams to progress in the course and allow them ditional progress in the course requiresstudents within two business days of to adjust their course workload appro- feedback and completion of the firstreceipt. Proctored exams should be priately. assignment or test score before subse-graded and submitted to students The online classroom is at a bit of a quent work can proceed. Timelyand/or appropriate administrative disadvantage due to the lack of these feedback in both these cases enablessystems (whatever is appropriate) subtle or not-so subtle cues for the student to take corrective measureswithin five business days of the com- students monitoring their course if necessary in order to successfullypletion. progress. Although the student can complete the course. send a communication requestingMonitoring Progress feedback to the instructor, the message PAGE 18 In the face-to-face classroom, can just as easily be ignored. Casual or 10 Principles of Effective Online Teaching: Best Practices in Distance Education • www.FacultyFocus.com 17
  18. 18. FROM PAGE 17 plexity of the assignments. These The Key to Success variables may directly impact the in- A few simple strategies for applyingThe Key to Forward Movement structor’s ability to turn around the expectation of a two-business day The instructor plays a critical role in student grades in a short time frame. If response to assignment or quiz andinforming the students of their it is understood from the beginning of exams grades.progress on assignments and quizzes course design that the assessment and 1.Clearly define assessment strate-or exams. An expectation of a two- evaluation strategies require signifi- gies for determining studentbusiness day turn-around ensures the cantly more processing time, alterna- achievement of course and modulestudent receives the information tive techniques may be considered. At level objectives at the time ofnecessary to maintain positive forward the very least, the course author can course design.progress. Once the student has elec- determine the pacing and nature of the 2.Seek additional input from col-tronically submitted the assignment for evaluation and assessment techniques leagues, instructional designersgrading, it is essential that the instruc- that may limit the negative impact on and/or students on the alignmenttor review the submission and respond the learners. of the stated course objectives withwithin a reasonable period of time. In There will always be situations the student assignments andsome institutions this time frame may requiring assessment techniques that quiz/exam assessment strategies.be specified by policy or cultural cannot be returned in the specified 3.Determine if institutional policy,practices. Whatever the defined time frame. Where and when these standards, or cultural practicestimeframe may be, the communication occur, communications to the online exist that need to be consideredto the students of when they may learner as to when they can expect a when designing or delivering anexpect a response enables them to response can serve to minimize the online course.monitor and plan their course activity degree a delay may impede student 4.Consider communications strate-and if necessary, take corrective action. progress. gies that explicitly define the expected turn around time forInitial Instructional Design Learner Benefits feedback. If the anticipated turn-Considerations 1.Assignment and exam feedback around time is greater than An important design construct in the provide enables the student to normal, consider providingcreation of any educational experience monitor progress and adjust course students partial feedback in orderis the alignment between the course activities if necessary. to maintain forward courselearning objectives and the assessment 2.Ready feedback also serves to momentum.strategies. Alignment refers to the maintain a communication linkproper relationship between the nature between the student and course in- Summaryof the learning objectives and the type structor. Establishing a protocol of providingof student performance (a.k.a. assign- Instructor Benefits student feedback/grades on electroni-ment or evaluation) that adequately 1.Planning for timely feedback of as- cally submitted assignments or examsmeasures student the degree of student signment and exam grades serves ensures student progress on course ac-success. Do the measurement tech- to establish milestones (a.k.a. tivities. A two-business day turn-niques/strategies match-up to what deadlines) for course instructors. around or other institutionally definedwas described as the desired learning 2.Considering strategies for time frame ensures that students havegoal for the student? Considering that providing immediate feedback can ready access to course progress data.match-up from the beginning can provide a mechanism for control- The alignment of the assignment andalleviate some of the potential for over- ling the use of assessment strate- exam strategies to the stated coursedesign of the assessment strategies that gies to those critical to the course and module objectives can greatlyput undo burden on the instructor and and in support of the learning ob- reduce stress or tension of “overthe student! jectives. designing” measurement techniques. This particular performance expecta- 3.Providing timely feedback enablestion is the most likely to raise concerns students to self-monitor course Dr. Lawrence C. Ragan is the Directorfrom faculty who feel the two-day turn progress. of Instructional Design andaround is unreasonable or unattainable Development for Penn State’s Worlddue to a number of variables including Timely feedback is generally consid- Campus. Gthe number students in the course, the ered a “customer service” bestnature of the content, and the com- practice.18 10 Principles of Effective Online Teaching: Best Practices in Distance Education • www.FacultyFocus.com