Being an effective teacher online

Within wholly online or blended courses, teacher presence requires a more prominent position, and development of a community of practice more imperative for students. Just as with a face-to-face teaching space, the online teaching space must also contain structured areas for receiving teacher-led knowledge and information, spaces where students can discuss, create and collaborate informally, a space for presenting work to their peers to demonstrate understanding, and a private space for independent and reflective work (see Creating a learning and teaching space). The online classroom needs to stimulate student's to be active learners through questioning, enquiring, responding and critically analysing a variety of questions and situations (see Interactive classroom teaching).

Consider the following principles of teaching within an online course:

  • Regular teacher presence – written, audio or video. Students need to know you are there: observing, guiding, and supporting.
    • Social presence – Establish a climate that will create a community of inquiry. Social presence supports purposeful collaboration and a questioning predisposition. Sustain a community by shifting from affective expression to purposeful cohesive responses.
    • Cognitive presence – Establish opportunities for critical reflection and discourse that will support systematic inquiry. 
  • Create communities of learning – Having limited or no face-to-face for some can be isolating and lonely. Effective learning occurs best when students feel part of a learning community and can share their learning experience with others.
  • Conduct effective online discussions – Ensure posts are answered or acknowledged within 24 hours, as no-one like to feel ignored. Encourage students to actively facilitate their own discussions.

Online resources

COFAonline UNSW, as part of an Australian Learning & Teaching Council funded project, have created a fabulous resource of short videos on 'Learning to Teach Online' that covers:

  • The context, planning and teaching in the online environment
  • Case studies on how and when to use various online strategies and technologies to achieve learning outcomes
  • Glossary of technologies to consider in an online environment

Professional development opportunity

Any staff member wishing to extend their professional knowledge and undertake study in the area of online learning and teaching, contact the Online and Teaching Futures team in CLIPP  for information on the BOLD Fundamentals: Teaching Online professional development course.

This online package is offered each semester and is designed to support staff in the ongoing development of knowledge, skills and application required to create an effective and successful online learning and teaching environment.

Further information and resources