Lectures & Learning Activities

UNLV Teach Online Best Practices

Traditional face-to-face courses often consist of a one hour (or more!) lecture accompanied by a slide presentation with opportunities for students to ask questions. For some instructors, their teaching style may combine lectures, demonstrations, discussions, exercises, and other class activities.

Regardless of how you teach in your face-to-face course, developing a new online or hybrid course requires developing strategies for delivering your lecture content in the online environment in ways that engage students and meet the learning objectives for the course. An instructional design team can help you do this as part of the course development process.

Teaching Online

As an instructor teaching an online course, your knowledge, experience, and expertise are invaluable to the student learning experience. You'll want to consider how to make the course your own without reinventing the wheel or changing the design of a master course. To do so, you will build on the prepared lectures, learning activities, and other content created in the course development process. Your teaching presence is critical for student success in the online classroom and for their achievement of learning objectives.

Best practices for lectures:

  • Provide an introduction to each week's topics.
  • Contribute advanced knowledge and insight to online class discussions.
  • Incorporate references to current research and resources from the field of the online course.
  • Serve multiple roles in the course (e.g., instructor, facilitator, coach, collaborator, co-participant, observer).
  • Use announcements to maintain a presence in the course.
  • Participate in discussions to maintain a presence in the course.
  • Connect students' prior knowledge of the course content.
  • Connect learning to real-world situations and contexts.
  • Maintain proper pacing of the course to allow adequate time for reading, practice, and assignments.
  • Model higher-order critical thinking. Encourage and develop student critical thinking skills.

Best practices for learning activities:

  • Intervene when monitoring data or assessments indicate that students are at risk for failure.
  • Use the gradebook effectively to provide timely feedback to students.
  • Ensure the accessibility of all online content in the course.
  • Maintain course pace to allow adequate time for reading, practice, and assignments.
  • Encourage and develop students' critical thinking skills.
  • Create cooperative learning opportunities to allow students to learn from one another.
  • Use group work to provide opportunities for collaborative learning.
  • Acknowledge learner efforts publicly and/or privately.

Preparing Lectures For Online Delivery

When you are developing a new online or hybrid class on your own or as part of a course development team, you will need to prepare your lectures for delivery online. In the early days of online education lectures often were delivered simply as written documents or as digital slide presentations. Today, lectures in online classes can take a number of different forms in ways that are far more engaging, interactive, and effective in achieving student learning. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Screen capture with audio recording (using Camtasia, for example)
  • Video recording of an instructor's lecture onsite or in the classroom
  • Audio recording of a lecture
  • Clear board video recording

Best practices:

  • Delivery methods are appropriate for the subject matter being presented.
  • Lectures, learning activities, etc., are aligned with course and/or module learning objectives.
  • Lecture delivery and content is both engaging and of the same, or better, quality as in a face-to-face class.
  • Opportunities for formative assessment are included during or after lectures.
  • All online content in the course is accessible.
  • Organize lecture content into shorter chunks by topic.
    • Ideally, each video segment should last 4 to 7 minutes
    • Student learning improves when lectures delivered online are in smaller chunks.
    • Shorter segments also make it easier for you during a recording session.

Developing Online Learning Activities

If you are developing a new online or hybrid class you will also want to think about the learning activities and assessments you use in your face-to-face class. Many activities, such as tests, papers, and readings, may be easy to envision translating to the online environment. Other types of learning activities, such as labs, experiments, and field trips, may seem more challenging.

Learning activities such as quizzes, discussions, or journaling can easily be created utilizing the existing tools in WebCampus. An online education course development team can develop more sophisticated and engaging forms of learning activities that bridge the gaps between face-to-face and online courses where WebCampus by itself is not sufficient. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Annotated visual flashcards
  • Case studies
  • Digital lab experiments
  • Discussions
  • Formative assessment quizzes
  • Journaling
  • Scenarios
  • Simulated clinical scenarios
  • Virtual field trips
  • Custom-built solutions

Best practices:

  • Align learning activities with course learning outcomes.
  • Use transparent teaching methods for assignments and other learning activities.
  • Intersperse opportunities for formative assessments in lecture videos.
  • Us rubrics to communicate expectations for quality and success criteria to students.
  • Design learning activities that encourage regular and academically substantive student-faculty interaction.
  • Use appropriate technology and innovative approaches to help students achieve course learning outcomes.
  • Spread out opportunities for low-stakes practice and self-assessment throughout the course.
  • Provide opportunities for students to reflect on and articulate what they've learned.