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


Online Student Evaluation Questions

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.