Effective quality online teaching

smiling african american woman working at a laptop

A substantial body of literature investigates strategies and techniques that impact student learning in an online environment. A number of studies emphasize the importance of social, cognitive and teaching presence on student engagement and learning outcomes. Furthermore, these articles provide suggestions for implementation of strategies and techniques that create an effective online environment.
Listed below are citations for several studies involving effective online teaching.



Faculty professional development
for quality online teaching

Alexiou-Ray, J., & Bentley, C. C. (2015). Faculty professional development for quality online teaching. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 18(4). 

Alexiou-Ray and Bentley suggested the importance of adjusting teaching methods to an online learning setting, using best practices such as adopting the role of a facilitator rather than instructor. Sample online teaching modules that display the authors’ suggestions are provided.

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Strategies to promote
engaged learning

Banna, J., Lin, M. F. G., Stewart, M., & Fialkowski, M. K. (2015). Interaction matters: Strategies to promote engaged learning in an online introductory nutrition course. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 11(2), 249-261. 

Banna et al. designed a qualitative study that invited students to provide feedback related to an online introductory nutrition course and used this information to implement strategies to improve the course.

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Teaching in a digital age: Guidelines for
designing teaching and learning

Bates, A. W. (2015). Teaching in a digital age: Guidelines for designing teaching and learning. 

Bates created a free digital book targeting the principles of effective teaching that highlighted topics such as media usage, teaching models, and trends relevant to online teaching.

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Teaching in graduate
distance education

Bloomberg, L. D., & Grantham, G. (2018). Teaching in graduate distance education: Perspectives on evaluating faculty engagement strategies.  International Journal of Online Graduate Education, 1(2). 

Bloomberg and Grantham describe how to create student engagement through social presence, cognitive presence, instructor presence, rapport, communication and relationship building. They also provide and describe a rubric used at their institution to evaluate online instructors on student engagement in terms of instruction, feedback and the various engagement techniques used.

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Strategies for virtual
learning environments

Chakraborty, M., & Nafukho, F. M. (2015). Strategies for virtual learning environments: Focusing on teaching presence and teaching immediacy. Internet Learning, 4(1), Article 2. 

The authors explored the effect that teaching presence and teaching immediacy have on student learning in online environments and discussed how instructors can implement these strategies in their courses.

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The effects of instructor control
on critical thinking

Costley, J. (2016). The effects of instructor control on critical thinking and social presence: Variations within three online asynchronous learning environments. Journal of Educators Online, 13(1), 109-171. 

Costley explored how instructional design aspects such as level of instructor control and structure impact students’ level of social presence and critical thinking in online posts.

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Increasing interpersonal interactions
in an online course

Cung, B., Xu, D., & Eichhorn, S. (2018). Increasing interpersonal interactions in an online course: Does increased instructor email activity and voluntary meeting time in a physical classroom facilitate student learning? Online Learning, 22(3), 193-215. 

Cung, Xu, and Eichhorn conducted a study in which achievement in online precalculus classes was analyzed to determine if an increase in emails from the instructor and an optional weekly in-person review session with the instructor had any effect on final exam and class grades. All adaptive lessons, assignments and exams were provided via the ALEKS system. Students in the precalculus sections that offered in-person reviews and weekly emails to keep the class on track obtained higher final exam and course grades on average.

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Using VoiceThread to
Create Community

Delmas, P. M. (2017). Using VoiceThread to Create Community in Online Learning. Tech Trends. 

Delmas surveyed about 40 students who had taken online courses that utilized VoiceThread and reported that students felt more connected to their instructor and other students due to features of the tool. 

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Increasing student

Deschaine, M. E., & Whale, D. E. (2017). Increasing student engagement in online educational leadership courses. Journal of Educators Online, 14(1).

Deschaine and Whale explored factors that enhance nontraditional online students’ engagement in learning. Through this case study review, it was found that instruction to foster interactivity, coupled with specific activities, helped students’ continuous engagement in online learning.

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Adaptive learning in

Dziuban, C. D., Moskal, J. C., & Fawcett, A. (2016). Adaptive learning in psychology: Wayfinding in the digital age. Online Learning, 20(3), 74-96. 

Dziuban et al. discussed the effectiveness of an adaptive learning system, Realizeit, as incorporated in an online psychology course. Based on responses to a student survey about their experience with the system as well as achievement outcomes, the authors suggested the adaptive learning format was a potentially helpful tool for self-directed learning also useful as an early alert system identifying at-risk students.

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Cognitive presence through teaching presence
teaching presence

Gutiérrez-Santiuste, E., Rodríguez-Sabiote, C., & Gallego-Arrufat, M. J. (2015). Cognitive presence through social and teaching presence in communities of inquiry: A correlational–predictive study. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 31(3), 349-362. 

The authors analyzed student communications over chat, email, and discussion forums to determine the predictive relationship between social, teaching and cognitive presence.

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The importance of
student-instructor connections

Joyner, S. A., Fuller, M. B., Holzweiss, P. C., Henderson, S., & Young, R. (2014). The importance of student-instructor connections in graduate level online courses. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 10(3), 436-445. 

Joyner et al. analyzed graduate students’ perceptions of their relationship with instructors and identified four underlying themes that are central to building rapport with online students, conducive to effective online learning.

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Practices that establish

Orcutt, J. M. & Dringus, L. P. (2017). Beyond being there: Practices that establish presence, engage students and influence intellectual curiosity in a structured online learning environment. Online Learning, 21(3), 15-35.

Orcutt and Dringus interviewed faculty teaching online who had been given high teaching marks by students about creating and maintaining instructor presence and stimulating intellectual curiosity in their classes. Their findings indicated that these highly rated instructors engaged with students in authentic ways, served as a resource, and provided guidance and interaction to support learning.

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Continuous improvement in
online education

Purcell, J. W., Scott, H. I., & Mixson-Brookshire, D. (2017). Continuous improvement in online education: Documenting teaching effectiveness in the online environment through observations. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 20(4). 

Purcell et al. review literature on classroom observations as a tool for online instructor professional development and present opinions on this topic from three educators at various organizational levels. The literature and educators believe that classroom observations can be an invaluable tool for online instructors, but there needs to be further buy-in from the top down, administratively, to effectively mandate a protocol within institutions.

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Preparing faculty to teach online
teach online

Rhode, J., & Krishnamurthi, M. (2016). Preparing faculty to teach online: Recommendations for developing self-paced training. International Journal of Information and Education Technology, 6(5), 376-382.

The authors asserted the importance of faculty being trained for effective teaching online and provided resources for planning, developing and evaluating self-paced training for effective teaching online.

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Designing personalized online teaching
professional development

Rhode, J., Richter, S., & Miller, T. (2017). Designing personalized online teaching professional development through self-assessment. TechTrends, 61(5), 444-451. 

Researchers developed a web-based survey to identify online instructor proficiency in key areas of online teaching and course development and provide instructors with personalized feedback. Findings revealed that instructors fall on a spectrum of abilities and comfort with teaching online, and a one-size-fits-all approach to professional development in this area may not be as effective as other options.

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Efficient strategies for maximizing
online student satisfaction

Rios, T., Elliott, M., & Mandernach, B. J. (2018). Efficient instructional strategies for maximizing online student satisfaction. Journal of Educators Online, 15(3), n3. 

Rios, Elliot, and Mandernach review literature and provide a guide for online instructors to create engaging courses leading to increased student satisfaction. The authors discuss such topics as the importance of user-friendly designs, student individual differences and communication methods. The importance of engagement as a motivator for students is emphasized.

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Teaching methods to
overcome challenges

Rogers, R. A., & Fleck, B. (2014). Teaching methods to overcome challenges in online graduate-level courses. Journal of Online Doctoral Education, 1(1). 

Rogers and Fleck investigated innovative teaching methods such as the use of social media tools and small group work in an effort to improve graduate student learning and retention in online courses.

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Enhancing the effectiveness of
online teaching

Simonds, T. A., Brock, B. L., Engel, M. T., & Cook, T. J. (2015). Enhancing the effectiveness of online teaching by using peer review. Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 12(9), 3-20. 

Simonds et al. developed a peer review instrument to ensure effectiveness of online teaching but suggested caution when using it with new online instructors. They also recommended going through the peer review process after instructor orientation, as well as multi-point collection of review data (e.g., self-review, peer review, student evaluation).

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Online teaching
best practices

Strandberg, A. G., & Campbell, K. (2014). Online teaching best practices to better engage students with quantitative material. Journal of Instructional Pedagogies, 15. 

Strandberg and Campbell established a list of best practices, such as creating a social atmosphere, tying course material back to real world examples, incorporating visuals and using frequent communication, to enhance online learning in a quantitative course.

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