Best Practices

The following best practices were suggested by members of the CTE Online Teaching and Learning Teaching Circle.

  • Create a course announcement, direct email, or video message that is welcoming and tells students where things are, how to get started, and where/how to ask a question.

  • Begin with an exercise inviting students to introduce themselves in the discussion forum.

  • Reflect on how your online course syllabus should differ from an in-person course. It should include a schedule with assignments and due dates, directions on how to get help, and details about any other policies your students need to know about. Consider giving a syllabus quiz to encourage students to read it.

  • Make changes to the course navigation so that it clearly points students to the areas that are most important for your course.

  • Provide frequent feedback (video or text), clear expectations, and regular updates to help students keep current with the course.

  • Design assessments that encourage engagement, allow for learner choice, and model learner self-expectations for good practice.

  • Provide lessons that can capture and hold attention, keeping distractions or extraneous information to a minimum.

  • Use small-stakes assignments and feedback to build motivation.

Recommended Resources

Books and Articles

Darby, F. (n.d.). How to be a better online teacher: Advice guide. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from How to Be a Better Online Teacher

Darby, F. (2019). Small teaching online: Applying learning science in online classes. Jossey-Bass.

Ko, S. & Rossen, S. (2017). Teaching online: A practical guide (4th edition). Routledge.

Miller, M. (2014). Minds online: Teaching effectively with technology. Harvard University Press.

Simonson, M., Zvacek, S., & Smaldino, S. (2019). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (6th edition). Information Age Publishing.

Vai, M. & Sosulski, K. (2015). Essentials of online course design: A standards-based guide (2nd edition). Routledge.


Best Practices Online Course Evaluation Guide


Guide to Offering Your Course Content Online
IUP's Instructional Design Services: Access to teaching and learning tools to provide instruction to your students through alternative delivery methods.

Library Instruction for Online Courses
Provides information on the methods for library instruction and resources in online and distance courses.

Standards and Rubrics and Checklists

Quality Matters Standards

Online Learning Consortium Course Design Scorecard

Quality Online Course Initiative


Course evaluation questions could include the following samples:

  1. The instructor organized course material effectively.
  2. The instructor communicated course ideas in a clear and understandable manner.
  3. The instructor demonstrated interest and enthusiasm in the subject.
  4. The instructor demonstrated interest in, and concern for, the students.
  5. The instructor established major points with illustrations, applications, and/or summaries.
  6. The instructor responded in a timely manner to give individual help regarding the course content.
  7. The instructor encouraged questions and discussion when appropriate.
  8. The instructor made it possible for me to increase my knowledge, skills, and understanding of the subject.
  9. The instructor encourages students to analyze ideas and to think critically.
  10. Grading criteria were explained clearly at the beginning of the course.
  11. Announced grading criteria were followed.
  12. Course objectives were explained clearly at the beginning of the course.
  13. Announced course requirements and policies were clearly followed.
  14. The required course materials were useful.
  15. The instructor provided appropriate feedback about my performance throughout the course.
  16. Graded exams and other course materials were returned to me in a timely fashion.
  17. In comparison to other courses of equal credit, the workload in this course was:
    • Much more
    • More
    • The same
    • Less
    • Much less
  18. The pace at which material was covered was:
    • Too fast
    • Slightly fast
    • About right
    • Slightly slow
    • Too slow
  19. Primary reason for taking this course:
    • Required for major
    • Elective for major
    • Minor/Related field
    • Liberal Studies
    • Personal interest
  20. My expected grade in this course:
    • A
    • B
    • C
    • D
    • F
  21. In this course, I learned skills or content that I consider valuable.
  22. I would recommend this course using distance education technology delivery to another student.
  23. My overall rating of the instruction in this course is:
    • Superior
    • Above average
    • Average
    • Below average
    • Poor
  24. The course technology was an effective medium to use for instruction.
  25. Technical issues/problems were resolved in a timely manner.
  26. Compared to course taught using the classroom formate, I found the distance education format to be equally effective.

Open Questions:

  1. List up to three things the instructor did in the course that contributed to your learning.
  2. List up to three things the instructor might change about this course.
  3. List any issues you perceived with the technology.
  4. Additional comments, i.e., Is there anything else you would like the instructor of this course to know?

Link to side letter regarding Evaluation of Distance Education Courses

Peer Evaluation of Online Courses

Professional Development Opportunities

Online Pedagogy Workshop by Barbara Frey

Course Design and Development Tutorial
Self-paced, online tutorial from CUNY School of Professional Studies, Office of Faculty Development and Instructional Technology

IUP Instructional Design Services Professional Development

Offers various options for learning, including on-demand videos, teaching online certification courses, and facilitator-led workshops.

Online Teaching Faculty Spotlight

Mary Stewart was awarded the CTE Faculty Recognition Award for Instructional Technology in 2019 for her innovative and student-centered strategies to promote student engagement in her fully online research writing course. As Stewart writes in her application, she designed a combination of asynchronous and synchronous activities to build a community learning environment that reinforces the social nature of writing and of learning. The documents provided below are excerpts of her award application.

Migrating Course Content for Online Delivery

The Center for Teaching Excellence is here to support faculty who may be migrating course content for online course delivery.

There are two sources of one-on-one consultation available to faculty:

  1. Instructional Design Services (IDS), and
  2. CTE affiliated graduate students from the Department of Instructional Design and Technology (CTE-IDT).

The IUP IDS office will offer D2L and Zoom workshops and consultation (both in-person and via Zoom) opportunities for faculty and teaching associates. CTE encourages faculty who have online teaching experience to co-facilitate the D2L and Zoom workshops with the IDS specialists.

Faculty needing individual consultation or technical support from IUP IDS should log these requests into ihelp.

In addition to the Reflective Practice Online Teaching Circle's web page that includes IUP faculty-generated best practice recommendations and resources, CTE has identified a variety of key articles and websites that may assist your expedited transition. Faculty please help us to add to this list by submitting resources that you have found helpful to

Please also be aware that IUP Instructional Design Services has numerous resources, including “How To” videos on topics such as D2L, Zoom, and accessibility for differentiated instruction.

The IUP IDS office will offer D2L and Zoom workshops and consultation (both in-person and via Zoom) opportunities for faculty and teaching associates. CTE encourages faculty who have online teaching experience to co-facilitate the D2L and Zoom workshops with the IDS specialists.

Faculty needing individual consultation or technical support should log these requests into ihelp.

IUP Resources



10 Tips for Success from Online Teachers

Monday Morning Mentor

Additional materials for this and other sessions are available by contacting CTE.

Other Resources


I will Survive - Michael Bruening

Technology Resources


The Global Society of Online Literacy Educators (GSOLE)
These webinars are meant to complement the workshops that CTE are hosting.

Online Pedagogy Workshop by Barbara Frey
May 20, 2008

Online Teaching and Learning (Word Document)

Online Education (PowerPoint Document)

Hybrid on the Horizon

Are you wondering how to use hybrid models to move your classes to different modalities simultaneously both online and face to face? Well, we have answers and ideas!

Veronica Paz and Matt Baumer discussed options and best practices on how to use current IUP technology to run your class activities for both your online (Zoom) and a face-to-face audience. . Learn how to use a hybrid model.

Microsoft, Zoom, and Cybersecurity Sessions 

Click on the link below to review the various sessions.