eLearning Tips

Common Concerns with Teaching Online and Strategies to Mitigate Them

These strategies for online teaching and learning (pdf) were presented by Gavan Watson (Associate Director eLearning – Teaching Support Centre) at the 2017 Western Academic Leaders Summer Conference with compiled with assistance from Andrea Di Sebastiano (eLearning and Curriculum Associate - Teaching Support Centre).


OWL Tips

The following OWL tips were compiled from the 2013 Fall Perspectives on Teaching Conference, OWL panel session, by Deanna Grogan (Information Technology Services), Diane Mahar (Faculty of Health Sciences), Sarah McLean (Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry), Bethany White (Faculty of Science), and Kim Holland (Teaching Support Centre).

  1. Use a ‘Getting Started’ lesson, to instruct students on where to find course content, activities, course expectations, contact information, etc.
  2. Use the home page to introduce yourself and the course. Use images, a banner or a video – the ITRC can assist with this.
  3. Create a ‘Help’ discussion forum (e.g., Lecture Help, Lab Help, Tutorial Help, etc.,) where students can post their questions to avoid answering the same question repeatedly.
  4. Make your course content dynamic. Use release dates so that content appears at different times, giving you control over the flow of information. A news feed can show current events related to your course. Students can also be asked to upload content to Lessons, Wikis, and Forums, to provide opportunity for engagement.
  5. Use OWL for student submissions. This will eliminate lost assignments, and you can use OWL to check for plagiarism (Turnitin is integrated into OWL).
  6. Gather feedback from your students before the end of term. Use the ‘Tests & Quizzes’ assessment tool to create an anonymous survey in which you ask for feedback from your students on the course. 

Tips for Online Teaching

The following tips for online instructors were presented at the 2013 Fall Perspectives on Teaching Conference, OWL panel session, by Diane Mahar (Faculty of Health Sciences) and Kim Holland (Teaching Support Centre).

  1. Create teacher presence at the start of your course through a personal introduction. Include a picture of yourself or a self-recorded audio or video file. Talk a little bit about the course and share some interesting details about yourself.
  2. To to build class community, have each student introduce themselves in the first discussion posting. Ask icebreaker questions like: ‘why are you interested in taking this course?’ or ‘what interests or talents do you have?’. Consider posting your own replies to these questions.
  3. To sustain an online community, each person needs to feel their comments are respected, and that they can contribute safely. Teach students how to challenge each other respectfully. Show them that conflict is acceptable, even warranted for learning! Consider developing a ‘net-etiquette’ policy statement for your course.
  4. In larger classes, consider creating smaller spaces for students. Use the group tool in OWL. Smaller groups will make community building easier.
  5. Give students explicit guidelines on what you expect them to do. If you have graded discussion forums, provide a rubric that shows how posts are graded. Include due dates in multiple places, e.g., syllabus, calendar, with posted questions. Think like a student when you are pulling together material for the course.