The following post was written by Susan Gedutis Lindsay, Associate Director for Instructional Design in the Department of Digital Learning.

For many, teaching is like a performance. We use stage techniques to engage our students. We think about pacing, about expression, about the clarity with which we organize our lectures. We ask our students engaging discussion questions that will get them talking about the topic, and we design in-class activities or demonstrations so that we can assess how they are learning. The online environment (either fortunately or unfortunately) does away with the art of the lecture. So, we have to craft the learning experiences differently and in advance, through the online materials and activities we provide in the course. Online, we shift the emphasis from what we do in the classroom, to what we want the students to learn.

Be present. Research shows that students learn best in online courses when they feel connected to their instructor, to their classmates, and to the material…with the heaviest weight going to the connection with the instructor. Students will be far more likely to do the work if they know you are paying attention to their forum posts and their assignments, and that you are giving them meaningful feedback, and that their work is noticed. But they won’t know unless you tell them. Give them meaningful feedback and they’ll immediately know that their presence in the class matters.

Get comfy with the computer. When you’re teaching online, you’ll be at the computer a lot. To be effectively present in a course requires that you spend as much time typing comments and feedback on forum posts, assignments, and activities as you normally would spend in front of the classroom leading discussions and delivering lectures.

Students crave feedback on their work because it’s the only way they can assess whether they are truly learning. Be present for them through posting frequent instructor announcements, responding to forums, and providing prompt and meaningful feedback on their assignments, and you will find that you increase student learning in measurable ways.

For more tips, read Ten Tips for Effective Virtual Course Facilitation by EdTech Leaders Online.