Best Practices for Online Teaching and Learning (Online Instructors)


  • Actively engage students in your course on a regular basis. It is recommended that faculty substantively participate in their online class at least 4 days/week for no less than 30 minutes, in addition to “live” virtual classroom sessions.
  • To promote engagement and student retention, provide at least one hour of synchronous interaction per week per class, e.g., a class discussion, guest speaker, Q&A, or review during the virtual classroom session.
  • Set clear expectations and grading/evaluation guidelines in advance of a course launch.
  • Establish minimum interaction expectations. Online courses are not independent study or “correspondence” courses; students should be clearly directed that in an online course, it is expected that during each week of the class, they will review and respond to discussions and their classmates.
  • Assignment feedback should go to students within 48 hours but may vary with more lengthy assignments. Feedback should be detailed, positive in tone and constructive in direction.
  • Set the tone & model positive rules of engagement. Monitor forum activity and provide guidance to keep the activity lively and the tone positive and supportive.
  • On-going communication with the Tseng staff is essential. The collaboration and communication will ensure each course is aligned with the program objectives and student learning outcomes, and accessibility and copyright rules, while at the same time providing students with a rich learning environment.

Best Practice 1: Be Present, Think Differently, and Teach

The online instructor is expected to conduct the class in an online platform from start to finish. The pedagogies in eLearning feature authenticity, collaboration, flexibility, inclusiveness, and relevance. Being present throughout the course is essential to ensure high quality student learning experiences.


  • Asynchronous engagement: Actively engage students in your course on a regular basis (it is recommended that faculty log in and substantively participate on at least 4 days per week for no less than 30 minutes, in addition to “live” virtual classroom sessions. Five days of participation is ideal, 4 is typically enough, and 3 is minimal but can be acceptable if there is rich and substantive engagement with learners on all three days.
  • Synchronous engagement: Provide at least one hour of synchronous interaction per week, e.g., a class discussion, guest speaker, Q&A, or review during the virtual classroom session. Note that the same day for virtual classroom sessions is typically used for all courses throughout the cycle of a cohort (e.g., Cohort 101 always has the live virtual classroom sessions on Mondays from 6-8:00 p.m. Pacific.)
  • Cohort schedule: Follow the established course schedule and timeframe for the program, but be prepared to make adjustments.
  • Faculty introduction & course welcome: Create your online presence with a welcome video or welcome announcement.
  • Announcements: Post weekly announcements at beginning of each week.
  • Syllabus: Post the syllabus at least two weeks before the class begins so that students have a clear picture of what is involved in the course.
  • Communicate in a timely manner: Post announcements, greetings, assignment reminders, changes, etc., in the forums so that all students receive the message in a timely manner.
  • Virtual office hours: Establish your online availability schedule for student questions, chats, etc. (ex: M, W, F, and Sat from 1-2pm, Offline Tuesday and Thursday; etc.)

Best Practice 2: Set Clear Expectations

Setting clear expectations and defining performance behaviors will eliminate uncertainties.


  • Grading interactions: Develop and post guidelines regarding minimal standards or benchmarks for student interactions such as peer to peer or peer to instructor.
  • Detailed syllabus: Create and post your detailed syllabus that follows the Tseng College syllabus template.
  • Set clear behavioral expectations: Set and post clear expectations for students such as classroom rules and regulations, posting netiquette, methods of assessment, deadlines for assignment, projects, presentations, exams etc.
  • Grading: Create and post rubrics for each assignment and other grading criteria.
  • Assignments: Provide instructions, samples, outlines or preliminary draft of a plan for an assignment.
  • Opportunities for faculty feedback: Create an opportunity for students to submit drafts of assignments and receive feedback to ensure that assignments are understood properly.
  • Establish minimum interaction expectations for students: Students should be clearly directed that in an online course, it is expected that during each week of the class, they will review and respond to discussion or forum postings by their peers. It is expected that the faculty member set a minimum number of replies to classmate posts per week for all learners in a class. Substantive, thoughtful responses in the class forums should be required so meaningful discussions can take place.

Best Practice 3: Provide Prompt, Constructive, Meaningful Feedback

Prompt, constructive feedback enhances deeper learning and builds student engagement online.


  • Response time: Assignment feedback should go to students within 48 hours but may vary with more lengthy assignments (e.g., term papers, group projects). Feedback should be detailed and positive in tone. Respond quickly and frequently to students’ forum posts.
  • Constructive feedback: Provide constructive, meaningful feedback in the form of guiding questions or pose another question for deeper thinking.

Best Practice 4: Manage the Online Environment

Managing your online classroom will require you to be proactive in design and management strategies. Anticipating students’ needs, adjusting and revising material as necessary is key.


  • All postings: Post readings, videos, assignments, etc., prior to the start of the course. If any changes are made to the previously posted assignments, notify students and Tseng staff as soon as possible.
  • Forums: Respond to all classroom discussions and questions in the forums, creating a learning environment among the entire class. NOTE: Communicate outside the classroom if it’s a private matter.
  • Reminder notices: Send reminders to students regarding upcoming projects, assignments, etc. If for example, the instructor has posted a template for the assignment online and wishes students to use the template, he/she should remind students that they are to follow the template. The instructor may want to remind students where to find it.
  • Assignment requirements & submission deadlines: Provide detailed instructions, guidelines including restrictions for every assignment. For example, provide a clear explanation about assignment submission due dates and what happens when students fail to meet the submission deadlines.
  • Virtual office hours: Provide online office hours. The instructor may want to set aside a particular time when he/she will be online so that the students can ask questions.

Best Practice 5: Create and Support an Online Community

Regular communication, sharing, and participation foster online community with peers and instructors.


  • Online community environment: Use forums, blogs, etc., to create an online community environment where students can share ideas with each other, work on group projects, conduct peer reviews, share reflective journals, etc.
  • Set the tone & model positive rules of engagement: Monitor forum activity and provide guidance to keep the tone positive and supportive.
  • Set guidelines: Provide students with appropriate guidelines for responding (naming conventions and model it).
  • Synchronous sessions: Provide synchronous sessions to increase student engagement. Make virtual classroom sessions available outside of formal session times to allow students to study/chat, work in small groups.

Best Practice 6: Deliver Multi-Modal Content and Use Online Instructional Strategies

Applying instructional strategies to multi-modal content enhances creative, interactive, and engaging learning to take place online. Utilization of web tools and emerging technologies cultivates opportunities for creative learning environments.


  • Content type: Use lecture videos, PowerPoint slides, podcasts, etc., to share information with students regarding course content.
  • Collaborative group work: Provide opportunities for active problem solving and for teamwork.
  • Varied discussion platforms: Use multiple discussion formats, including small group discussions, case studies, team debates, where groups can discuss parts of the topic and then collaborate on their findings, and role play.

Best Practice 7: Establish Course Pace and Patterns of Activities

Each student cohort is different. The course patterns of activities should adapt and evolve according to the student’s needs, experience, and prior learning, while at the same time keeping a rigorous course pace for working mid-career adults.


  • Assignment pacing plan: Pace the course so as not to end-load your course with the bulk of the activity/credit at the end.
  • Scaffold activities: Create prerequisite activities that students must complete in order to move on to the next activity.
  • Ongoing assignment: The students should have a clear picture of the expectations of the course. For example, they can have a reflective journal due after reading assignment, a quiz after every three chapters, a midterm and a final, and a final project.
  • Assignments should be purposeful: Provide meaningful assignments, activities, and assessments with a logical order. Instructors should be careful not to add "extra" assignments that serve no real purpose.
  • Clear timeline of assignment due dates: Provide a clear timeline with activities and due dates.

Best Practice 8: Elicit Active Learning and Critical Reflection

Engaging students to become active learners in their own career path is crucial. The reflection of that learning enables students to make connections between new material and their career goals.


  • Purposeful assignments: Provide purpose to all assignments (i.e., Reading assignment: can be followed up by a reflective journal, a project, a group project, etc.).
  • Set up discussion forums: Create an online environment where students can discuss concepts, questions, and issues. Use asynchronous discussion forums to further discussions or to encourage new discussions about concepts and readings.
  • Build opportunities for active discussions: Use virtual classroom sessions to actively elicit live discussions of concepts and theories, questions, and debates to engage students in real-time, compelling, and thought-provoking discussions.

Best Practice 9: Provide Ongoing Evaluation and Assessment

Performance assessment is an on-going process that must be conducted by both the instructor and student. There are many forms in which this is possible, but it should not be overlooked in an online environment.


  • Clear objectives: Provide clear objectives for all activities and assignments.
  • Assessment types: Create criterion-referenced assessments that are consistent, on-going, and measurable.
  • Timely feedback on student progress: Provide feedback in a timely manner (at least within 48 hours, as outlined above). Students need to know of their progress as they move along in the course.
  • Quizzes & exams: Create quizzes and exams that are practical, relevant, & reliable.
  • Appropriate length of assignment: Break up large “term” projects into components, with feedback for each.

Best Practice 10: Communicate with the Tseng eLearning Design Team and Program Managers

Ongoing communication with the Directors and staff at the Tseng College is essential. The collaboration and communication will ensure each course is aligned with the entire program goals and objectives and student learning outcome, Accessibility Technology Initiative (ATI) and copyright compliances, while providing students with a rich learning environment. The instructor needs to make sure he/she is designing a satisfactory course that meets the criteria of the program for which he/she is designing the course.


  • Consult with the program manager (from Graduate & Professional Education) assigned to you regarding issues or administrative needs such as:
    • Faculty Administrative Needs: These include faculty contracts, payment, online course design and development scheduling.
    • Textbook Orders: Textbooks must be selected 6 weeks+ prior to course start date for student accommodations.
    • Class Rosters: Official rosters should be checked against the LMS course roster and program managers should be contacted to resolve any differences.
    • Posting Grades: Post all grades in SOLAR immediately or up to 5 days after the last class meeting.
  • Consult with the instructional designer (from Distance Learning) assigned to you regarding course design & production, online teaching, course delivery, and educational technology training and support.
    • Course production: Complete entire six (6) month online course production process at least two (2) weeks prior to the course start date.
    • Training: After being trained on the pertinent software, practice before first live class and seek support if needed with the Distance Learning Technical Support.
    • Student engagement: Student learning is at the forefront of deeper learning and requires attention throughout the course. Guidance will be provided throughout course upon request.
    • Ongoing assessment: Review all course assessments (mid-term, final, etc.) from the course and make adjustments (in teaching, assignments, course design, course delivery) as needed. Your Academic Lead & DL rep can review the assessments with you and assist you in determining any necessary changes and in applying those changes during the course, after the course, and before subsequent course offerings.
    • Online teaching: Teaching online is different than Face-to-Face teaching for many reasons, but guidance is always available and training of new online instructors will be provided.