Online Teaching


The aim of these resources is to help you as you design your fall courses, recognizing the likelihood that almost all courses will involve some degree of online learning. Below are key areas to consider as you prepare for fall. Each area includes relevant links to resources as well as worksheets to help you plan.  

As you plan, please keep in mind that regional and national data strongly suggests that traditional college-going students highly prefer synchronous, or live, online experiences that emulate the typical classroom setting, to asynchronous or self-paced work often done on one’s own (watching a video lecture then submitting a quiz or assignment on one’s own time, for example). We highly suggest that instructors planning on maintaining regular class meeting times and synchronous video class times design sessions that provide frequent opportunities for students to have discussions, ask questions, and provide feedback on their learning, perhaps in the form of brief quizzes or polls. 

Also, rest assured that the below is a guide intended to provide you with a starting point and process that may be adapted by you in light of your own situation and needs—it is not meant to be followed to the letter or to ensure that you build your entire course prior to the fall start. You may however, utilize the time-based guide at the bottom of this page if you would like to follow a step-by-step plan that ensures the bulk of your design efforts will be complete before our August start. For now, we suggest beginning in a pragmatic place by working to answer the following question:  

What can I do now to prepare with the materials and resources at hand? 

Best Practices in Context: How is Online and Hybrid Teaching Different from Face-to-face Teaching? 

While there are many similarities between face-to-face and online or hybrid teaching, below are some interesting differences to consider as you conceptualize the design of your fall classes.  

  • Explain your pedagogical choices – Extra effort is needed to communicate the connections between the assignments, assessments and the activities of the class. Be explicit about your pedagogical choices or the “why” behind course activities and how they relate to the goals or objectives in your course.  Some examples are clarifying the purpose of discussion board assignments and making clear why some activities in the class are asynchronous, or self-paced, and others are synchronous.  

  • Be explicit about expectations – Students will be managing several courses with varying types of hybrid or online instruction. You can create a clear roadmap by making your expectations explicit at the start of the semester. For example, make sure your students know about any synchronous meeting times, important due dates, and group work projects. A course calendar with relevant due dates and weekly reminders of upcoming assignments helps students stay on track.  

  • Make learning personal – Instructors need to actively cultivate a classroom community in the hybrid and online environments. Including a video or robust description of your interests both inside and outside of the class can help humanize the learning process and make you more approachable when students have questions. Sharing your excitement about the course content and highlighting excellent student work throughout the course helps to motivate students.    

  • Get to know your students – Sending a survey to students the first week of class can help you gather information about your students such as their interests, past experiences with the material, or concerns about the course. Visit the Virtually Getting to Know your Students webpage for ideas and customize the Beginning of the Course Survey for your specific needs. 

  • Communicate with students – It is particularly important to consider how you will communicate with your students in hybrid and online teaching.  Consider what communication might be on a regular schedule such as a weekly announcement with important due dates, and how to communicate emerging information such as progress reports and contacting students who may need additional support. Clarify how you want students to communicate with you. For example, you might tell students to use email for private communications such as requests for extensions, a class question and answer discussion board for quick procedural questions, and virtual office hours for in-depth help. Use the Communicating in Your Course worksheet to help you think through the variety of ways you will communicate with your students in an online or hybrid environment. 

  • Provide timely feedback and grading- Students rely on and appreciate regular feedback to help them gauge how they are doing in the course and what they can do to improve. Online feedback can take many forms and can be directed to the entire class or individual students. Use the Providing Feedback and Grading worksheet to help you think through how you would like to grade and provide feedback. 

Prioritizing What to Put Online 

It is likely that at least some aspects of fall courses will need to be available online in Canvas, UC’s Learning Management System, to account for social distancing measures. In preparing for fall, we recommend beginning by reviewing what you would typically do in a course and what it might look like in an online or hybrid environment. 

For each aspect of your course, select the digital tool that would help you achieve your goal or indicate that you need to find a tool to fit your needs. These tools may include features in Canvas or UC supported tools, called Canopy tools. 

Use the Prioritizing What to Put Online worksheet to determine what parts of your course easily translate online, what needs to be modified, and what needs a bit more thought or needs to be reimagined 

Organizing Your Course  

While course organization is always important, online and hybrid courses need a very clear organizational structure. Creating a relatively consistent schedule helps students to plan and stay organized. For example, consider breaking your course up into units that share a similar structure. This will help students develop a routine the keeps them engaged and on task.  

Refer to the Tips for Creating a Well Organized Course webpage and the Developing a Unit/Module Cycle in Your Course worksheet for ideas on how to organize your course.  

Choosing Digital Tools for Your Course  

UC offers a wide array of tools that can help you accomplish a variety of course learning outcomes. Selecting a tool is about personal preference, level of knowledge, and specific course goals.  

The Selecting Digital Teaching Tools webpage can help you decide which tools work best for your course. Use the Assessing Educational Technology worksheet to help you assess your comfort level with specific tools. 

Example Course Development Steps and Timelines 

It's helpful to map out how you want to develop your course to help you distribute your work. Here are Example Course Development Steps and Timelines for 12, 8, and 4 weeks with links to several of the webpages and worksheets that are also shared below. There are many ways to approach course development, so feel free to add, remove, or rearrange steps to fit your course and workstyle.