Online Faculty Best Practices

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By creating a learning environment that is personal, students become more engaged in their learning. Frequent feedback from the instructor in an online course increases learners’ sense of engagement in the course. Learners are better able to manage their course activities when they know upfront when to expect feedback from the instructor.

Auburn University Montgomery uses the Quality Matters (QM) Rubric for design and development of online and hybrid courses. The Rubric is a set of 8 Standards by which to evaluate the design of online and hybrid courses.
 

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The following are best practices for faculty interaction with students in online courses based on the Quality Matters Rubric, Standard 5:
 

  • Course design should provide clear information about when learners will receive instructor responses to emails and discussion postings, feedback on assignments, and grades. This information typically appears in the course syllabus.
  • A clear explanation of the requirements for learner interaction helps learners plan and manage their class participation and is important for promoting learners’ active involvement in the course.
  •  The statement of requirements also provides a basis for the instructor to evaluate learner participation. The more specifically the expectations are explained, the easier it is for the learner to meet the expectations.
  • Clearly explaining the role of the instructor and expectations for interactions with the instructor and with other learners is especially helpful to learners from cultures in which deference to the instructor is customary.
  • In early correspondence with students, let them know how you plan to communicate with them and what is your preferred mode of communication; i.e., email, chat, social media, phone or perhaps a course discussion board.
  • If it is necessary to alter the response-time standards during the course, the adjustment is clearly communicated to learners.
  • Let your students know what kind of turn around they should expect from you. If you don’t plan to reply to emails on the weekend, or on particular days, then let your students know.
  • Interaction with the instructor may take different forms. The course introduction should indicate the various forms of faculty and staff support available to the learner and explains when learners can expect to receive feedback.
  • Expectations for learner participation are typically in the course information page or course syllabus. These requirements may specify the nature of the required participation and expectations for frequency and quality of the learner’s interactions.
  • The instructor may provide rubrics detailing how leaner interactions are evaluated, including reading and responding to the instructor’s and classmates’ posts.
  • If the instructor must be out of contact briefly for an unexpected reason (such as illness or a family emergency that takes the instructor offline), the instructor must notify the students by the appropriate means; i.e., through email, announcements or discussion post.
  • Instructors may use the following types of contact with students.
    • Orientation material
    • Weekly announcements through Blackboard
      Threaded discussion boards through Blackboard
    • Email contact within or outside Blackboard
    • Timely feedback for student work
  • In addition, an instructor may use the following resources to maintain additional contact with students.
    • Participation in online group collaboration projects
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    • Virtual Office hours via the chat function in Blackboard or through Blackboard Collaborate
    • Other, as appropriate

Quality Matters. (2014). Quality Matters Higher Education Rubric (5th ed.). Annapolis, MD: MarylandOnline