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Best Practices in Online Instruction

The table below illustrates how the tools of a Learning Management System, like Blackboard, support The Seven Principles for Good Practice outlined by Chickering and Gamson (1987). It further explains how specific tools can be utilized to create an exemplary learning environment for both online and on campus students.

Good Practice in Online Instruction


Encourage student-faculty contact.

  • Chat: Schedule virtual office hours
  • Messages/Email: 1 to 1 private interaction
  • Discussions: one to many public discussions

Encourage cooperation among students.

  • Student Presentation: Small teams or groups interact via email, blog, discussion; Post student papers in Discussion area for peer review
  • Email between students on group projects; Problem solving in groups
  • Discussions: Self-introductions; Provide specific opportunities for students to interact with other students

Encourage active learning.

  • Discussions and Chat: Formal debate on-line between students and experts; Students evaluate each others' postings; Invite virtual guest speakers;
  • Journals: Students submit regular observation/reflection/journal writings
  • Self-Quiz: self-evaluation
  • Notes: Students take electronic notes while reading Content pages
  • Chat and Whiteboard: Virtual classrooms to discuss and demonstrate ideas

Give prompt feedback.

  • Chat: Live virtual office hours where the instructor is present
  • Self-Quiz: Self-quizzes with specific feedback for all responses along with each content page
  • Discussions: Topic folders that allows students to post messages with feedback to the instructor anonymously
  • Quizzes and/or Survey: Quizzes that provided immediate results; Needs assessment pre-class and post class assessments
  • Assignments: Require drafts; Web-based assignments clearly state how the Web may be used in completing the assignment; web-based assignments direct students to specific Websites; provide hints for searching the Web; web-based assignments require students to evaluate and validate information
  • Student Presentations: Individual or group projects and portfolios

Emphasize time on task.

  • Goals: Post course goals and learning objectives
  • Calendar: Set time-achievement expectation that is laid out at the beginning of the course
  • Tracking: Monitor student activity on Content pages
  • Discussions: Set limits for number and type of postings by each student;
  • Email: Keep messages succinct; Set guidelines for file format of emailed attachments; Require Progress Reports from students periodically
  • Bookmarks: Maintain accurate and up-to-date links to external sites

Communicate high expectations.

  • Provide self-assessment tools
  • Clearly post course syllabus with requirements and schedule; Course objectives written at the higher level and clearly revealed to students
  • Assignments  makes available "stellar" examples (of past student project, for example) for students to refer to
  • Discussion Board: Monitor ongoing student dialogues for climate setting and role modeling; Provide corrective feedback; Post netiquette guidelines; Ask student to comment on what they are doing in terms of metacognition of the Discussions process; Expect student to participate regularly.
  • Celebrate in-class success by naming student or group
  • Content Modules: Provide extra content modules for supplemental readings which support key points
  • Utilize WebQuests for promoting more discovery and constructivist-oriented learning activities
  • Encourage students to work with "raw" or puzzling data sets, without feeling the need to simplify examples to make calculations easier.
  • Quizzes and Adaptive Release: Require mastery competence for information literacy prior to assigning research tasks
  • Courses are separated into self-contained segments (modules) that can be used to assess student mastery before moving forward in the course or program.
  • Course assignments and projects require students to make appropriate and effective use of external resources, including print, library, Web-based, and other electronic resources




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