Instructors: Before You Teach Online....

Teaching online can be effective, but technical problems on either the instructor's end or the students' end can be extremely frustrating. Here are a few things you should do before you teach a class online.

  1. Send your students the URL for the online meeting AND instructions on downloading and installing the Web App. Instructions to students and guests are provided on the next page of this module, but you should send the instructions to students well before the class. It is also a good idea to post the instructions or a link to the instructions on Blackboard in case they lose them. Once you /schedule/create the meeting, you can enter the meeting beforehand and get the meeting URL and send this to your students and guests.
  2. Ideally, you should schedule a brief test session with your students before you teach a full class in order to identify and fix any technical problems.
  3. Encourage students to join the meeting 10 minutes prior to the scheduled starting time, so they can orient themselves to the online classroom and check to see that their microphone is working.
  4. You should also join the meeting early and post a short greeting in the Instant Messaging box to let them know that you are in the classroom.
  5. You should establish ground rules for use of the Instant Message section. It should be clear that they must adhere to standard courteous behavior and they should not use the IM box for trivial messages unrelated to the discussion.
  6. Make sure that the students can hear you before you start the class.
  7. If you are going to record the meeting, it is a good idea to warn them when you begin recording and remind them to be courteous.
  8. If you have a large number of students, it is a good idea to make sure that a Teaching Assistant is also present in the online classroom and that they have a functioning microphone. If there are a lot of questions and comments in the IM box, it can become difficult for the instructor to keep track of them and respond to all of them. A Teaching Assistant or Facilitator can answer many of the questions in the IM box for you or they can draw your attention to questions they you may have missed.
  9. Unless the number of participants is small, it is probably better to not use web cams, because with a large number of them being used, the bandwidth will be taken up and it will create transmission lags.
  10. I generally have my web cam on at the beginning of the class in order to greet the students and introduce the subject. This enables me to establish "presence" in the online classroom. However, once the class gets going, I turn my web cam off until the end, because it is just an unnecessary distraction.
  11. It is probably a good idea to either keep your email open or give the students your phone number so that they have an alternate way to contact you if they are having technical problems.