The CTT Guide for Online Teaching

Welcome to the Center for Transformative Teaching’s guide to getting started with online instruction. Whether your course is fully or partially online, this guide provides the essentials.

The unexpected events of Spring 2020 left many instructors new to online teaching with a grasp of the basics. This move to “remote teaching” was a crisis response, different in many ways from the ordinary business of designing and administering an online course. For a course that originates online, you may need to make instructional choices that you did not have the luxury of making when your course was shifted online due to campus closure. This guide aims to provide you with an awareness of the best practices in online instruction and to help you think through the choices you need to make to design an effective online course.

Before we begin, here is a quick preview of some of the things to have on your radar as you prepare to teach online:

  • Instructional Materials. One of the critical decisions you need to make in an online course – as with any other course – is how to best guide students through the lessons of the course. What are the most appropriate materials for preparing students to learn what they need to learn? Which tools and technologies should you use? How should you organize and pace these materials? As the subject matter expert, you will need to be the one to decide these things. But, in this guide, we will offer a few basics about how to gather and arrange the instructional materials in your online course.
  • Course Structure and Organization. Planning how you will structure and organize material is an important step in the process of designing your course. In this section, we will discuss some key considerations in course structure and organization.
  • Communication. Because you will not interact with your students face-to-face at regular intervals as you do in an in-person course, a good communication plan is essential in an online course. We will walk you through some basic considerations in this section.
  • Engagement and Community. Online courses can (but don’t need to) be isolating. What you do to get your students engaged and build community among them is critical to the success of your online course. We explore this below.
  • Assessing Student Learning. As your course proceeds, how will you know how well your students are doing? How will you know how you are doing? All of this information can be gathered through assessments (assignments, quizzes, exams, and other types of activities) designed to help you and your students gauge how well they are grasping the key lessons of your course and to help you figure out where you need to offer more guidance or make adjustments to your instructional approach. Often, it is only the manner in which these are administered that needs to change when you begin teaching online. But new opportunities sometimes appear when you step out of the classroom and into a virtual space.
  • Inclusive Excellence. When teaching online, the need to foster an inclusive, respectful, and equitable class environment remains – and, in a few respects, may become even more important. But the tapestry of challenges is a bit different than in a face-to-face course. A few initial thoughts are offered here. For further guidance in this critical topic, we refer you to the resource Implementing Inclusive Excellence into Virtual Learning Environments, prepared jointly by the Center for Transformative Teaching and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

This guide will address all of the above subjects. You can use the menu below to learn more about each topic. If you'd like to view this entire guide on one page, click the "Printer Friendly Version" link below.