What is Effective Fully Online Teaching 

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This teaching tip provides information about expectations for online teachers and ways to deliver a fully online course. See this post for more information about other modes of delivery

Asynchronous Courses  

Asynchronous is one mode through which courses are provided at Conestoga College. In asynchronous courses, there are no real-time scheduled classes in which you provide structured lessons, engage with students, and assess learning. In this type of learning, 

the instructor and the students in the course all engage with the course content at different times (and from different locations). The instructor provides students with a sequence of units which the students move through as their schedules permit. Each unit might make use of assigned readings or uploaded media, online quizzes, discussion boards, and more.” 

– University of Waterloo, 2022, para. 2 

 
Students choose when, and how, engage with the course content and with others (Coursera, 2022). Faculty clarify, support, and encourage students in their choices!

Asynchronous Courses at Conestoga  

A woman laying with a blanket on her, looking at a laptop and making notes with a pen
Photo by Mikhail Nilov

Students access their courses through eConestoga, the College’s learning management system (LMS). Faculty use eConestoga to provide announcements, monitor student progress, deliver grades and feedback, and facilitate asynchronous discussion. 

Most (but not all) asynchronous courses are created by a course curriculum expert and course developers from the Online Learning Centre (OLC). In these cases, your course section shell will be copied from a model shell, and only your students will access your section.  

Online courses follow their approved Course Outline, make ready all Essential Elements, and are delivered to the standards of the Course Delivery Procedure. How you deliver the course will depend on the needs of your learners, your course design, and your preferences.

The College’s Expectations for Fully Online Teaching

At Conestoga, you are expected to engage students regularly. You are paid the same to teach online courses as for other modes. You are expected follow the Course Delivery Procedure, the Evaluation of Student Learning Procedure, and the HR Policy for responding to students within 48 hours. Your students may be invited to complete a Student Appraisal of Teaching (SAT), which checks how your supports have impacted their learning experience. 

Students’ Expectations of Fully Online Teaching

Students will expect guidance, support, active learning opportunities, and constructive feedback to help them to be successful in the course. One student, Wafa Sarguroh (2020), shared some typical expectations of students in asynchronous courses:  

– Sense of belonging to a community;
– Asynchronous discussion, building knowledge together;
– Virtual interactions with the instructor;
– Well-organized course and clear expectations;
– Multiple modalities of content presentation.

Many students at Conestoga have limited or no experience with learning fully online. Your students may also be new to Canada, so are unfamiliar with the College education system. You provide a critical “bridge” between students and the course content and assignemnts.

Fully Online Teaching Activities for Asynchronous Courses 

Although the course is fully developed, you may share your expertise, build community, and provide timely and constructive feedback to students. Morris, Xu, and Finnegan (2019) found that faculty describe their role as with one 1 of 3 levels of faculty engagement: 

  • Online monitor (visible more at beginning, rare discussion participation)  
  • Online facilitator (shared questions, occasionally provided discussion feedback, provided guidelines for assignments, and fostered a climate of student collaboration)  
  • Online teacher/participant (high visibility throughout the class, interacted with students frequently) 

Research suggests that students most value teachers in asynchronous courses who are accessible, engaged, and passionate, and who provide active learning, helpful course resources, and peer interaction (Hew, 2014). Students at the college level benefit from a high level of presence in your class (“Online teacher/participant”).

See below for teaching and assessment ideas for your asynchronous course, grouped by different types of “presence” for asynchronous learning (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000): 

Teaching Presence 
(Sharing about your field expertise, expectations, and commitment to learner success)

  • Welcome and orient students to the sections and operations of the course 
  • Complete an “About Your Professor” bio page 
  • Reiterate the goals of the course and it fits within the program  
  • Explain your expectations for how, where, and when students should ask questions 
  • Introduce yourself and sharing relevant information about your professional expertise 
  • Locate and expand on key course policies (e.g., communication policy for how and when you are available, when assignments are due and how late submissions will be dealt with) 
  • Provide regular announcements and/or messages for keeping track with course progress 
  • Respond to email messages within 2 business days (as per College policy) 
  • Ensure that accommodations requirements are met for students with documented disabilities 
  • Provide optional synchronous online office hours (if appropriate)

Social Presence
(Building class community and encouraging collaborative learning)

  • Provide an icebreaker to help students know who is in the class (participate yourself!) 
  • Lead students in opportunities to “be seen” in the class through sharing their opinions, perspectives, and experiences  
  • Lead students in collaborative discussion to construct knowledge together 
  • Provide explicit guidance and support for students working in pairs or groups, including team-based assignments and/or peer review 
  • Participate actively in discussion posts and group chats, and respond to forum-based queries in a timely way  
  • Encourage students to share fun or social content in a “virtual cafe” discussion forum
  • Ensure that the learning environment is positive and inclusive for all students 

Cognitive Presence
(Supporting deep engagement with course content and learner feedback)

  • Promote a culture of academic integrity, sharing resources and reminders  
  • Provide constructive and timely assignment grades and feedback to students using the assignment course tools 
  • Provide relevant explanations of assignments, expectations, instructions, grading procedures 
  • Provide additional explanations or examples of difficult or challenging terms, concepts, processes, procedures, etc.  
  • Remind students to use self-checks, pre-assessments, and other formative feedback activities to confirm the progress of their learning  
  • Provide polls, surveys and other outreach opportunities so students may share feedback to help improve their learning experience 
  • Identify and communicate about gaps in learning that you are noticing, and directing students to resources to support their learning 
  • Share video links about how to submit and access grades and feedback 
  • Connect course topics to current events, professional activities, and workplace opportunities  
  • Encourage as-needed student meetings to discuss the course and/or provide further assessment feedback

Course Facilitation and Management 
(Keeping the course running smoothly and supporting disengaged students)

  • Update and publish the Instructional Plan to ensure it is accurate and contains relevant key information for students 
  • Check interactive learning activities and weblinks to ensure they are working 
  • Check assignment drop boxes, quizzes, and other tools to ensure they work, and that dates/times are correct 
  • Check rubrics and the grading tool to ensure that they are functioning correctly 
  • Update and maintain an accurate gradebook that students can access 
  • Seek assistance to ensure proper functioning of the course for you and for students 
  • Give students ideas and reminders for time management, self-organization, and keeping up with the course
  • Monitor the progress of students for page views and assignment completion 
  • Provide frequent reach out messages, and co-creating course completion plans, for students at risk 

Active teaching is being highly visible, leading student interactions, providing timely information and feedback, and being responsive to questions and issues. With these active teaching ideas, you can clarify expectations, foster content engagement, and cultivate community–even when the class never meets in real time.  

More Information About Teaching Fully Online

See this Linkedin Learning course, Learn to Teach Online by Oliver Schinkton (2019), which provides information on the essential elements of teaching, creating a culture of learning, and creating accessible learning online.

See the Online Learning Centre’s Sharepoint site (sign-in required) for more information about online courses at Conestoga, including a page that provides a step-by-step list of key teaching expectations and actions that you can take right before your course becomes available for students.  

The OLC’s Hybrid Toolkit (sign-in required) provides tips and tech for supporting learners who are completing part of their course asynchronously. 

References 

Ceallaigh, T. J. Ó. (2021). Navigating the role of teacher educator in the asynchronous learning environment: emerging questions and innovative responses. Irish Educational Studies, 40:2, 349-358, DOI: 10.1080/03323315.2021.1932553  

Coursera (2022). What is asynchronous learning.  

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education model. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), 87-105. 

Hew, K.F. (2016), Engagement: lessons from MOOCs. British Journal of Educational Technology, 47: 320-341.

Morris, L.V., Xu, H., & Finnegan, C.L. (2019). Roles of faculty in teaching asynchronous undergraduate courses. Online Learning.

Sarguroh, W. (2020). What students expect from an online course? OISE Online.

University of Waterloo (2022). Synchronous and asynchronous online learning.

Elan Paulson

Elan Paulson, PhD, has been an educator in Ontario's higher education system since 2004. Before joining Conestoga as a Teaching and Learning Consultant, Elan was on the executive team at eCampusOntario. She previously served as Program Director and as an instructor in professional education programs at Western University's Faculty of Education. With a Master's in Educational Technology, Elan specializes in technology-enabled and collaborative learning to support diverse learners. She has also conducted research on faculty participation in communities of practice for professional learning and self-care.

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