Best Practices in eLearning

Core Issues

  • The virtual class does not teach itself.

  • Presenting content in a virtual classroom is more time consuming than presenting content in a face-to-face classroom.

  • It is advisable that instructors be trained formally in technology, curricula and pedagogy that is specific to the virtual classroom and have opportunities to update their skills.

Specifically, in order to create successful virtual classrooms, faculty should consider these best practices: 

Welcoming and clear course set up


Virtual learning environment that is secure, productive and safe.  Most instructors already include this information in their syllabi but find it is important enough to remind students throughout the course (i.e. as an ANGEL announcement). Below are examples of how you create an environment that welcomes your online students:

  • Informational/welcoming email in advance of the beginning date of the class.  Since ANGEL class shells are not populated until a few days before classes begin, you can get your class roster through the WVC Portal.

  • Visual introduction/bio/picture/video by the instructor

  • Visual introductions/bios/pictures by students.  A "Meet and Greet" forum in ANGEL is one way for students to introduce themselves.

  • FAQ sheet.  While this information may be in your syllabus, a simple, bulleted list for your classes main points can serve as a reminder for students.

  • Content organized in concise, direct, clearly labeled and accessible weekly modules

  • Clearly stated and visible attainable educational goals, objectives and student learning outcomes

  • Clearly stated where, when and how instructor can be contacted

  • Clearly visible synchronous and synchronous office hour

  • Assess students’ skills (with technology and course content) at the beginning of the class

  • Content-specific assignment before census date to establish attendance expectation

  • Weekly content assignments for continual engagement and recording attendance

  • Clear statement on plagiarism and cheating

  • Clearly visible information or links about where students can get technical support

  • Clearly visible information or links about student support services

  • Assessment tool to help students determine readiness for eLearning

  • Providing an orientation/general overview of the virtual classroom

  • Providing training for student to learn to manage time, access resources, use the course management system, and practice how to succeed online

Special needs of students

  • Comply with accessibility, Americans with Disabilities Act laws, copyright and fair use

  • Meeting students’ need for particular assistive technology

Meeting the needs of students’ different learning styles

  • Meeting the needs of students’ differing levels of readiness in using the pertinent technology, tools and course content

  • Deliver content through various tools and applications in order to meet different learning styles (e.g., texts, discussion forums, individual and collective e-mail messages, blogs, journals, chats, podcasts, texting, tweeting, PowerPoint presentations, telephone, videos, video/audio conferencing)

  • Present learning tasks in terms of problem solving at the higher levels of learning.
  • Content interspersed with presentations, discussions, activities, student-centered exercises, team/group exercises

  • Make content available to students at least one week in advance of assignment due date

Regular and Effective Content

  • Course and instruction that is responsive to cultural differences

  • High degree of interaction/contact between 

    • instructor and learner

    • learners and learners

    • learners and texts

  • Regular and effective interaction using varied modes/tools: e.g., 

    • e-mail (private email for sensitive comments)

    • video

    • telephone calls

    • synchronous and asynchronous virtual and in person office hours

    • virtual and in person conferencing

    • discussion forums

    • threaded discussions with instructor participation

    • blogs

    • “FAQs” (Frequently Asked Questions)

    • calendars

    • texting

    • tweets

    • group projects

    • regularly scheduled graded assignments

Establishing routines and clarifying expectations

  • Due dates for assignments and time required for completion clearly stated and noted in various places (e.g., the assignments, a calendar, announcements)

  • Established even pace through duration of the course

  • Established weekly routine

  • Consistent reviewing and updating of policies and procedures

  • Clearly defined netiquette

  • Established standards for instructor/student communication

  • Process for students to anonymously evaluate the instructor and curricula

  • Timely and frequent feedback and assessment for students

  • Clear record-keeping so that students monitor their own learning progress

Modeling/moderating effective online discussions

  • Modeling/moderating effective online discussions

  • Treating each student as an individual, call by name, use appropriate emoticons to convey a more personal touch

  • Creating groups of 4 or 5 and give specific tasks

  • Using private email for sensitive communications

  • Establishing a database of responses that may be used as feedback to student assignments

  • Providing reminders of grading criteria and requirements of the course

  • Presenting learning tasks in terms of problem solving, not only accumulated knowledge

  • Presenting multiple approaches to problem solving

Faculty development

  • Engage in continual training in pedagogy and technology

  • Engage in active community of eLearning professionals

  • Attend conferences

  • Create support network of other more experienced eLearning professionals


last published: 8/25/16