A fully online course conducts all learning activity in an online environment, with no face-to-face (F2F) contact. Students and the instructor login and access the course in a learning management system (e.g. UM Learn) to read course materials, participate in discussions and course activities, submit assignments, and check assignment grades.
When teaching an online course, many of the same principles of excellent and effective teaching in F2F courses apply to online courses as well. Some of the similarities include:
- Expectations must be clear for learners.
- Lines of communication must be used regularly.
- Quality interaction between students is the sign of a successful class.
- What students do with the content is more important that the content itself.
- The ability to motivate student interest is as important as the instructor's knowledge of the content.
- Quality teaching considers the students as an individual, not just the class as a collective.
- Formative feedback is important to develop skills.
- Showing students that you care about them makes all the difference.
Despite the similarities, online courses do present challenges that F2F courses do not. Some of these challenges include:
- F2F learners know the drill. Online learners may not.
- Through elementary, high school, and post-secondary schooling, we know how to behave in a F2F classroom. For online learning, the social rules, class procedures, and expectations are less clear. The instructor must make sure that online students are clear of what is expected of them in order to avoid confusion and frustration.
- Online learners will quit more quickly.
- In a F2F classroom, students are likely to wait out the first week or two if the course expectations and instructions are unclear. Online students will likely walk away from the course, assuming that online learning is a bad form of education or that they do not have the skills or personal style to handle it.
- Online learners require more interaction with the instructor.
- In a F2F classroom, usually a few students ask and answer questions. The other students often sit back to observe and listen to the responses. Since online students cannot always watch the interaction of others, the instructor should be prepared to answer plenty of questions in online courses.
- Online learning can lack feedback for both students and instructors.
- In online courses, it is challenging for the instructor to know if students understand the material and if teaching strategies are working. Conversely, students are often unsure if they are working enough or catching all of the concepts in the course.
- Online instructors must take some technical responsibility.
- Instructors need to be prepared for students to turn to them for technical help regarding the learning management system and other technology tools used in the course.
- Online learning should be broken into smaller pieces.
- Online students can easily "walk out" of a course (i.e. click to another browser) and have a limited attention span for studying at a computer screen. When designing online courses, it is important to retain students' attention by breaking the content into chunks that take fifteen to twenty minutes to process, with videos generally under five minutes.
Source: Miami University. Key differences between online and face-to-face teaching. Retrieved from: https://miamioh.edu/academics/elearning/faculty-resources/teaching-with-technology/key-differences/index.html