Teaching Online Best Practices

Lecture Capture & Video
  • Effective Educational Videos

    Videos can be an effective tool in your teaching tool kit. Please remember to set your video links to open as an external resource in D2L to ensure all students can view your posted videos. 

    When incorporating videos into a lesson, it’s important to keep in mind the three key components of 1. Cognitive Load, 2. Elements that impact engagement, and 3. Elements that promote active learning. Consideration of these elements converges on a few recommendations: 

    Cognitive Load 

    1. Signaling is the use of on-screen text or symbols to highlight important information. For example, signaling may be provided by the appearance of two or three key words or a symbol that draws attention to a region of a screen. By highlighting the key information, it helps direct learner attention for processing in the working memory. Research has shown that this approach improves student ability to retain and transfer new knowledge.

    2. Segmenting is the chunking of information to allow learners to engage with small pieces of new information. Segmenting can be accomplished both by making shorter videos and by including “click forward” pauses within a video and annotations to provide students with a question and prompting them to click forward after completion.

    3. Weeding is the elimination of interesting but extraneous information from the video that does not contribute to the learning goal. For example, music, complex backgrounds, or extra features within an animation require the learner to judge whether he should be paying attention to them, which increases extraneous load and can reduce learning. Research has shown that this treatment can improve retention and transfer of new information from video. 

    4. Matching modality is the process of using both the audio/verbal channel and the visual/pictorial channel to convey new information, fitting the particular type of information to the most appropriate channel. For example, showing an animation of a process on screen while narrating it uses both channels to elucidate the process, thus giving the learner dual and complementary streams of information to highlight features that should be processed in working memory. This approach has been shown to increase students’ retention and ability to transfer information and to increase student engagement with videos. 

    Student engagement 

    1. Keep it short. Researchers have examined the length of time students watched streaming videos - analyzing results from 6.9 million video watching sessions – and observed that the median engagement time for videos less than six minutes long was close to 100%. As videos lengthened, however, student engagement dropped off. In fact, the maximum median engagement time for a video of any length was six minutes. Making videos longer than 6-9 minutes is therefore likely to be wasted effort. 

    2. Use a conversational style. The use of conversational rather than formal language during multimedia instruction has been shown to have a large effect on students’ learning, perhaps because a conversational style encourages students to develop sense of social partnership with the narrator that leads to greater engagement and effort.

    3. Speak relatively quickly and with enthusiasm. In a study examining student engagement with educational videos, researchers observed that student engagement was dependent on the narrator’s speaking rate, with student engagement increasing as speaking rate increased.

    4. Make sure the material feels like it is for these students in this class. When reusing videos, it’s important to package them with text outside the video to contextualize them for the particular class for which they are being used. Further, it’s important to create them for the type of environment in which they will be used.

    5. Match modality.  When telling a story, it can be very effective to show the storyteller’s face or to show an animation or illustration of the story, and for math instruction showing students step-by-step with narration how to work through the problem. In both cases providing visual elements that add to the lesson can not only promote student understanding but also engagement with the lesson. 

    Active learning 

    1. Use guiding questions. For example, research examining the impact of guiding questions on students’ learning from a video had students in some sections of the course watch a video with no special instructions, while students in other sections of the course were provided with eight guiding questions to consider while watching. The students who answered the guiding questions while watching the video scored significantly higher on a later test.

    2. Use interactive features that give students control. Research comparing the impact of interactive and non-interactive video on students learning in a computer science course showed that students who were able to control movement through the video, selecting important sections to review and moving backwards when desired, demonstrated better achievement of learning outcomes and greater satisfaction.

    3. Integrate questions into the video. Incorporating questions directly into video and to providing feedback based on student responses found videos with embedded questions improved the students’ performance on subsequent quizzes.

    4. Make video part of a larger homework assignment. Research has found that students value video and that the videos improved students’ understanding of difficult concepts when compared to a semester when the videos were not used in conjunction with the homework.  

    MyMediasite (Video) Best Practices (North Carolina State University) 

    Lecture capture best practices (Educause) 

    Effective Educational Videos (Vanderbilt University) 

Flipped Classrooms
  • Key elements of the flipped classroom
    1. Provide an opportunity for students to gain first exposure prior to class. This can vary, from required readings to lecture videos to podcasts or screencasts of class topics posted on Office 365 Stream or KU Mediasite. Please remember to set your video links to open as an external resource in D2L to ensure all students can view your posted videos. 

    2. Provide an incentive for students to prepare for class. Have students complete a task associated with their preparation and link that task with points. Examples range from online quizzes to worksheets to short writing assignments, but in each case the task provides an incentive for students to come to class prepared.

    3. Provide a mechanism to assess student understanding. Pre-class assignments that students complete as evidence of their preparation can also help both the instructor and the student assess understanding. Pre-class online quizzes can allow the instructor to practice Just-in-Time Teaching to focus class activities on the elements with which students are struggling and can serve as informal checks of student understanding. Importantly, much of the feedback students need is provided in class.

    4. Provide in-class activities that focus on higher level cognitive activities. If the students gained basic knowledge outside of class, then they need to spend class time to promote deeper learning. The key is that students are using class time to deepen their understanding and increase their skills at using their new knowledge. 

    Flipping the Classroom (Vanderbilt University) 

    Blended/flipped classroom (Cornell University) 

Online Writing
  • Best practices for utilizing blogs in the classroom

    Blogs can be helpful tools to enhance students’ communication skills and increasing their students’ investment in learning. Blogs are good spaces for informal or formal writing by students and are often an excellent balance between the rigor and structure of a formal written assignment and the freedom to experiment with ideas and arguments. 

    1. Articulate clear rules before you start. It is important to clearly communicate the expectations for the blog before you begin, students will need to know why and how you want them to blog.

    2. Consider spending time on the importance of writing style and grammar. Using a blog is a useful vehicle for providing students with feedback on their writing so that their skills can improve.

    3. Students should be familiar with rules about posting and commenting. Students can often interact with the published content so a comment section allows students to share thoughts and opinions. It's also a good idea to teach students how to comment effectively.  

    4. Interactions in blogs can be used as a teaching moment to discuss plagiarism. A blog can also be used to discuss copyright-laws surrounding images and how to find and use copyright-free images. 

    5. Blogging can replace other forms of writing. For instance, instead of having students turn in a reading response paper each week, an instructor could ask students to post their responses to the reading on the blog.

    Adapted from Teaching with Blogs (Vanderbilt University) 

Online Discussions
  • Best practices for facilitating online discussions

    These tips can help instructors ensure that online discussions are engaging and beneficial. 

    1. Convey Clear Expectations. Make sure to provide clear expectations regarding the number of posts, the number of replies, and the associated deadlines. For example, require two answers to the initial questions and two additional replies to classmates by the end of each week. Remember that you'll need to read everything your students write!

    2. Adjust to the Discussion Board. The first discussion assignment should be low-stakes. Students must introduce themselves and are encouraged (but not required) to post a few photos. Students are then asked to read and reply to two or three of their classmates' introductions. This enables them to get to know each other and to get accustomed to the discussion board.

    3. Clarify Your Role. It is important to share with your students how you envision your role in online discussions, which depends upon your pedagogical beliefs and teaching style. Keep in mind that your own contributions will set the tone for the discussion. Do not hold your online discussions to higher standards than your face-to-face exchanges.

    4. Provide Feedback and Coaching. As you begin reading students' posts, prompt them to provide the page number, quote, or the title of the article to which they are reacting (e.g., "Good point, Sam—what's the page number for this quote?"). Ask for clarifications if a post appears vague.

    5. Track Participation. Track your own participation and that of your students, checking that the required initial answers are posted by the first deadline. D2L provides this information for you in the course's Student Progress area. I also keep track of whom I responded to and make sure to provide one meaningful reply to each student by the end of the week.

    6. Offer Alternatives. If you have more than fifteen students, consider creating discussion groups or increasing the number of questions students may choose from. It will be easier for your students to stay on top of the discussion as they won't feel that they have to read every post.

    7. Consider offering live discussions. Students often take online courses because their schedule or personal life does not allow them to go to class twice a week. It does not mean that they can't attend live sessions.

    8. Create Questions You Care About. Provide five or six open-ended questions so that students can choose the ones they want to respond to, and include a general question that prompts students to react to an aspect of the readings that caught their attention

    9. Select Discussion Leaders. Discussion leaders are responsible for adding a discussion question and moderating the answers. Discussion leaders select three of their classmates' quotes and write a one-paragraph reflection on each, which has proven to be of greater value to all in support of the learning process.

    10. Encourage Note-Taking. Encourage students to take notes on weekly discussions. Courses ultimately close, and sooner or later students will lose access. Discussion posts don't export very well and are difficult to search.  

    Adapted from 10 Tips for Effective Online Discussions (Educause) 

    Additional Resources:

Online Quizzes / Exams
  • Best practices when using D2L for online testing

    D2L quiz tools can enable instructors to create a wide selection of points–based question types ranging from multiple choice questions, true/false, fill-in-the-blank, matching, and written responses.

    WARNING: Respondus LockDown Browser (RLB) will NOT work with Chromebooks. You can disable the LockDown Browser for a specific student via Special Access.

    1. Vary your question types. Create a quiz that has a variety of quiz question types and mixture of lower and higher-level questions that elicit application, integration, and evaluation. See the article from Vanderbilt University on How to write good multiple-choice questions.

    2. Use the D2L Question Library. Create and store quiz questions into the D2L Question Library and retrieve them when you are ready to import the questions into a D2L quiz. View the links below for more details. See our article for more information on how to use the D2L Question Library.

    3. Offer a Practice Test. Offer a practice test to your students each semester to acquaint your students with the process of accessing, taking, and submitting tests.

      • Include the types of questions you will ask on a real test or quiz, e.g., multiple choice, true/false, short answer/essay, etc.

      • If you plan to include attached files or images in your real test include these in the practice test as well. 

      • Use settings similar to those you will use on a real test or quiz 

      • Don’t assume your students are familiar with taking online tests using the Tests & Quizzes tool!

    4. Request a Review of Your Test Settings. Use the recommended layout setting of one question per page. The default layout setting to display one question per page is strongly recommended for the following reasons:

      • Students' answers will be saved as they navigate through the test and greatly reduces the risk of losing their answers if they experience an interruption in their internet connectivity or other issue. 

      • Each page will take less time to load with one question on it.

    5. Don't make the exam window too short. The quality of student internet connections will vary by service provider, time of day, and competing activity on their network. Leave several hours between the available date and due date to allow students to start a test at a time when their internet connection is more stable. 

    6. Set a time limit. To restrict the amount of time a student has to complete a test, you can enforce a time limit in the settings. The “time left” is automatically displayed to students during the test. See our article on setting up your quiz under “restrictions” for more information.

    7. Make sure accessibility accommodations are in place. If a student identifies that they require accommodations for online tests, such as a requirement for extra time you can allow for time or date accommodations.  See our article on providing Special Access for quizzes.

    8. Before every test, remind your students to:

      • Verify they have a stable network connection before starting a test. 

      • Set their phones in Airplane mode to minimize load on the wireless network while test-taking.

      • Shut down all other applications & activities on their computer during a test.

        …and warn your students: 

      • Don't use mobile devices to take tests! 

      • Don't open multiple browser tabs or windows to the Tests & Quizzes tool while taking a test!  Doing so can cause errors, including lost test answers! 

      • Don't use the browser's Back or Forward buttons to navigate an online test. Using the browser's navigation can produce unexpected results, including lost answers! 

      • Don't double-click buttons and links! Double-clicking will actually slow down screen loads and could produce errors. 

      • Don't navigate away from a test without saving or submitting your content!  A timer on a timed test will NOT pause if you exit the test, so be sure to return to your test as soon as possible if it is timed!

    9. Get Help. Contact helpcenter@kutztown.edu if you have questions or need assistance with Tests & Quizzes. If you are reporting an issue for a student, please include as many details as possible.  Helpful information would include each student's name, course ID, section, instructor name, Quiz name and the internet browser they are using.

    Additional Resources:

Assignments
  • Best practices when using online assignments
    1. Take advantage of the web as a learning environment. There is no need to be constrained by the limitations of D2L, Zoom or other platforms when developing online assignments. The web offers a wealth of information, services, and tools that can be incorporated into assignments and course activities; you can use its networked, hypertextual nature to stimulate curiosity, encourage exploration, and promote critical thinking. 

    2. Start engaging students early in the course. The first assignment is a good indicator of whether a student will complete the course. Interesting, provocative assignments early in the course draw students in, habituate them to the kinds of coursework you have planned, and engage them actively in the course community.

    3. Be transparent in your motives and articulate a clear rationale. All assignments benefit from a clearly articulated rationale, but this is especially true online, where it can be more difficult for students to ask clarifying questions. Explaining why you have chosen a particular assignment and why you believe it is valuable is often the best way to persuade students to try out an assignment they might otherwise approach skeptically.

    4. Connect multiple parts of the course. Assignments and activities can weave together different parts of the course, helping students integrate what they learn and develop a deeper understanding of the material.

    5. Provide clear criteria for evaluation and assessment. Because grading and assessment practices vary widely in online courses, students often benefit from knowing how their work will be evaluated. Providing clear grading rubrics and other evaluation criteria in advance can help students focus on the most important aspects of the assignment.

    6. Provide detailed instructions and prompts. Detailed instructions are crucial - but they must also be concise enough that students will actually use them. Consider using video prompts or instructions when you need to convey a lot of information related to an assignment

    7. Demonstrate variety and flexibility. Flexibility and variety let students exercise more control over their choices, making assignments more engaging. Providing multiple options for completing assignments is one way to introduce flexibility; designing assignments that allow for multiple types of answers or learning approaches is another.

    8. Provide good (and bad) examples. Examples act as models that help students learn to develop their own ideas or responses and to think more creatively. Examples also help students who may not be familiar with expectations or practices for certain types of assignments. Pointing out an example's best and worst features can be especially useful.

    9. Make assignments inclusive and accessible. Assignments that are designed from the beginning to be accessible are ideal for online environments. Following principles of universal design ensures assignments find the broadest possible audience. 

     Adapted from Characteristics of Effective Online Assignments (Brown University) 

    Additonal Resources:  

Effective Feedback
  • 7 tips for providing effective feedback

    Whether feedback is just there to be grasped or is provided by another person, helpful feedback is goal-referenced; tangible and transparent; actionable; user-friendly (specific and personalized); timely; ongoing; and consistent. 

    1. Effective feedback is Goal-Referenced. Effective feedback requires that a person has a goal, takes action to achieve the goal, and receives goal-related information about his or her actions.

    2. Effective feedback is Tangible and Transparent. Any useful feedback system involves not only a clear goal, but also tangible results related to the goal. The best feedback is so tangible that anyone who has a goal can learn from it. Too much instructional feedback can be opaque, however.

    3. Effective feedback is Actionable. Effective feedback is concrete, specific, and useful; it provides actionable information. Thus, "Good job!" and "You did that wrong" and B+ are not feedback at all. Actionable feedback must also be accepted by the performer.

    4. Effective feedback is User-Friendly. Even if feedback is specific and accurate in the eyes of experts or bystanders, it is not of much value if the user cannot understand it or is overwhelmed by it. Highly technical feedback will seem odd and confusing to a novice.

    5. Effective feedback is Timely. In most cases, the sooner the feedback, the better. Don't want to wait for hours or days to find out whether students were attentive and whether they learned. Good feedback is "timely" rather than "immediate."

    6. Effective feedback is Ongoing. Adjusting student performance depends on not only receiving feedback but also having opportunities to use it. What makes any assessment in education formative is not merely that it precedes summative assessments, but that the performer has opportunities, if results are less than optimal, to reshape the performance to better achieve the goal. In summative assessment, the feedback comes too late; the performance is over.

    7. Effective feedback is Consistent. To be useful, feedback must be consistent, stable, accurate, and trustworthy. Teachers must agree about what high quality work is. Teachers need to look at student work together, becoming more consistent over time and formalizing their judgments in highly descriptive rubrics supported by anchor products and performances.  

    Adapted from Seven keys to effective feedback (ACSD)