It is possible to teach “an old dog” new tricks. As one skeptical humanities professor discovered, the same principles of student engagement apply to online teaching as they do to face to face learning.

Whether onsite or online, success comes down to taking the courses we teach seriously and respecting the students. From the standards we set and maintain, to our personal interest in students as individuals, to the feedback we offer and the preparation we bring to each session, the participants in our classes know instantly how much we care about the subject and how important it is that each student is willing to master the material.

If you are new to online teaching, the way that you go about preparing for courses and teaching them takes on a different character. Preparation is essential. But so is the humility to reach out for help. At most institutions there is a support structure in place to help faculty do what they need to accomplish in order to be excellent online teachers. This is true at Penn State where many resources are found on the Web Learning site.

To those who are teaching online for the first time, the best advice came from a colleague: begin six months in advance to prepare written lectures, assignments and discussion topics; find what works for you and your students, and avoid the “herd mentality” of teaching as others do; add 20 per cent more students beyond the capacity of the class because many will drop out during the first week; and reach across the academic disciplines for help from those who might know a lot more about what works, what doesn’t work, and why.

Read the rest of Making Online Teaching Click.

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