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:

  1. Review your course learning outcomes for needed changes or modifications
  2. Develop or modify assessments to align with your outcomes
  3. Create learning activities that support your assessments and outcomes
  4. Select technological and pedagogical tools to support outcomes

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Additional Resources

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.



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