Teaching in the Virtual Classroom

How is teaching an online course different than teaching a regular course?

Education is changing in many schools and programs worldwide. In recent years, the number of courses and entire programs–both undergraduate and graduate–that are being offered online has dramatically increased. As a graduate student, you will likely be either assisting or teaching an online course at some point in your graduate career. There are some important differences between teaching traditional classrooms compared to teaching virtual classrooms, and below are a few things to consider when you teach online for the first time.

Virtual classrooms are NOT virtual instructors.

Just because there is no physical presence of a classroom does not mean that there should be no physical presence of an instructor. In fact, when teaching an online course, it may actually be more important for online instructors to reach out to students because students do not have the option of asking their questions “in class.” Additionally, online instructors should hold regular office hours so that students know of a set time when instructors can be reached.

Be flexible.

A lot of students who choose online programs typically do so because their personal demands do not allow them the flexibility to take traditional courses, so be mindful of the unique student body with whom you are working. Now, that is not to say you should reduce the academic rigor of the course. When teaching an online course you will need to adapt your style of teaching to fit the needs of your students. For example, you may need to take occasional evening phone calls to answer students’ questions.

Create a Community

Just as in traditional classroom learning, students benefit from working with their peers in online education. When teaching an online course it is important to create a class infrastructure that is conducive for students to connect to and support one another. Some examples of this might be a weekly study group, a discussion board, group work, etc.

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