Best Practices for Teaching and Learning: Ten Plus Four

Chapter 3 of The Online Teaching Survival Guide (2nd Ed.) pp. 43-61

Figure 1: Best Practices for Teaching Online. Source- Boettcher and Conrad (2016) p. 45

This chapter runs sequentially through the 14 “best practices for teaching online” shown in Figure 1. I’ll summarize some of characteristics of these practices and add my comments about each of them below:

  1. Be present at the course site.Three types of presence are described– social, teaching, and cognitive presence. In my opinion, this is a sensible recommendation, except for the fact that it really is overly obvious, essentially not saying much more than “do your job”. It doesn’t make much sense to have an instructor for a course unless they are going to interact with the student on the levels described. The “cognitive presence” described sounds a lot like Constructivist teaching style– operating to guide the student(s) through the “Zone of Proximal Development” described by Vygotsky ( Boettcher & Conrad, 2016, p. 14).
  2. Create a Supportive Online Course Community. Includes ideas like “designing for learner-to-learner dialog” (p. 48), in an attempt to foster relationship-building between students. Although this seems like a great idea in theory, I’ve personally only seen it work well in my M.Ed. program, a blended-learning scenario where the students were in a cohort over a long period of time. In pure online courses, I’ve seen students and instructors inhibited from establishing personal contacts with each other institutional rules. At Langara, for example, instructors and students are told that email communications should be exclusively via temporary course email addresses, or the school’s institutional email addresses. Although there are sound reasons for this, such as data privacy laws and personal safety concerns, this layer of near anonymity and the temporary nature of the connections works at odds to the idea of creating a sense of community in the classroom.
  3. Develop a Set of Explicit Workload and Communication Expectations for Your Learners and Yourself
  4. Use a Variety of Large Group, Small Group, and Individual Work Experiences
  5. Use Synchronous and Asynchronous Activities
  6. Ask for Informal Feedback Early in the Term
  7. Prepare Discussion Posts That Invite Responses, Questions, discussions, and Reflections
  8. Think Digital for All Course Content
  9. Combine Core Concept Learning with Customized and Personal Learning
  10. Plan a Good Closing and Wrap Activity for the Course
  11. Assess as You Go by Gathering Evidence of Learning
  12. Rigorously Connect Content to Core Concepts and Learning Outcomes
  13. Develop and Use a content Frame for the Course
  14. Design Experiences to Help Learners Make Progress on Their Novice-to-Expert Journey