Key Effective Practices in Remote Teaching and Course Design
To support students’ engagement and learning in remote courses, instructors may spend more time than they would for a face-to-face course considering what the learning environment will look and feel like, the structure and flow of the course, and what tools will be used to support learning and engagement. The following key effective practices will guide you in building an effective, engaging, and intentional remote course.
For support with developing or reviewing your course design, assessments, or learning activities for remote teaching, download our Course Design for Remote Teaching instructor planning guides.
1. Focus on the pedagogy
Regardless of the teaching context, ensuring that your course learning outcomes, assessments, and learning activities are aligned is the first step in creating an effective course. Use backwards design to ensure constructive alignment among your course elements:
- Review your course learning outcomes for needed changes or modifications
- Develop or modify assessments to align with your outcomes
- Create learning activities that support your assessments and outcomes
- Select technological and pedagogical tools to support outcomes
- Decide what can be kept, repurposed, modified, or removed from prior versions of the course. To start, use our Adapting your Teaching and Learning Activities workbook (page 4) and Adapting your Assessments workbook (p10).
- Consider how you will balance synchronous and asynchronous approaches
- Use the Student Workload Calculator to estimate the expected workload for your students
- Use our Plan Your Course Structure guide to create an organized, easy-to-navigate course
2. Use technology intentionally and purposefully
Technology selection should be based on the format, delivery modes, and nature of your assessments and learning activities. Keep it simple and consider learners’ access to devices and bandwidth and their expertise with various technologies.
- Use a short survey to understand students’ expectations, needs, and challenges related to remote learning
- Visit OpenEd’s Remote Teaching and Learning site to learn about different technologies
- Use our Adapting your Teaching and Learning Activities workbook (page 32) to evaluate teaching tools and resources that will align with your course learning outcomes
3. Apply Universal Design in Remote Learning
Creating a learner-centred, equitable, inclusive, and accessible remote course may involve different considerations than a face-to-face course. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Universal Instructional Design (UID) are two models that offer guidance about how to design and deliver instructional materials and activities and create a learning environment that supports and promotes access and inclusion.
- For strategies and resources around inclusive teaching in online/remote environments, see the Inclusive Teaching and Learning Online resource from Columbia’s CTL
- For a discussion about UDL in the post-COVID learning environment and best practices for universal design in online/remote environments, see Why Universal Design for Learning Is Essential to Higher Education’s “New Normal”
4. Create active and varied learning experiences
Encouraging learners to actively engage in course material, with each other, and with you supports their learning and helps to build community. To support learner engagement, provide multiple and varied active learning opportunities that are aligned with your outcomes and assessments. Consider how active learning can be incorporated throughout the learning process: before, during, and after learners engage with information, content, and ideas.
- Use our Adapting your Teaching and Learning Activities workbook to identify active learning approaches that are aligned with your learning outcomes and assessments
- Implement activities and interactions to support students’ self-directed learning
5. Build course community and rapport with your learners
The Community of Inquiry Framework provides a model for facilitating effective learning experiences and community building through these interdependent elements: teaching presence (student-instructor interaction); social presence (student-student interaction); cognitive presence (student-content interaction); and emotional presence.
- Incorporate elements of a Community of Inquiry (for examples, see Indiana University’s Types of Interaction and Western’s guiding questions for facilitating an online course)
- Include intentional, frequent opportunities to build belongingness, community, and connection
- Use basic tools in Courselink to interact and build community
- Read about how to Humanize your Online Class
6. Provide regular feedback
When face-to-face or synchronous interactions are limited, frequent feedback is an important opportunity for communication about content and expectations and plays a critical role in helping learners stay on track, accountable, and engaged. Identify key points in the course where students must receive some form of feedback to move forward with their learning.
7. Manage the “classroom”
Frequent and transparent communication is essential in the remote environment to build community and trust, and to help learners successfully navigate the course and their learning. Share your expectations around how students should interact with you, their peers, and course technology. Communicate information about the course, assessments, technology use, support, and resources.
- See our Classroom Management in the Remote Environment site for strategies to prevent classroom management challenges and for managing difficult situations and behaviours
- Refer to our Adapting your Assessments workbook (page 5) for strategies on clear communication related to assessments
- Adopt strategies for Building Community and Managing the Classroom
- Ryerson’s resource on Effective Online Communication contains several helpful strategies
8. Gather feedback, reflect, and revise
Create opportunities for feedback from your students and colleagues on your course. Reflect on what went well, what didn’t go well and why, and what could be changed. Success in remote teaching is an iterative process and it takes time. While you are leading with compassion towards your learners, don’t forget self-compassion. This is hard work! Ask the OTL or your colleagues for help, be forgiving, take breaks, step away, reflect, and return.
Center for Teaching and Learning, Columbia University in the City of New York (2020). Adapting Your Face-to-Face Course to a Fully Online Course: A Guide
Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning, University of Calgary, Developing Online Courses
O’Keefe, L., Rafferty, J., Gunder, A., & Vignare, K. (2020, May 18). Delivering high-quality instruction online in response to COVID-19: Faculty playbook. Every Learner Everywhere.
Dartmouth, Teach Remotely, Remote Teaching Good Practices: Beyond the Tech.