Online Teaching Best Practices

Bringing it Full Circle

As you can discern from the readings, statistics, and Distance Learning's philosophy and expectations, there are many Best Practices that all faculty teaching Distance Learning courses can engage in to increase student success. We cannot lose sight of the reason we are here: to help students succeed in their educational and career goals and to help them become better at everything they choose to do. The goal of post-secondary educators cannot be to simply hand out grades; the goal should be student support, delivered through instruction and by interactive feedback, encouragement, frequent contact, and visibility.

It is especially important for faculty in online instruction to carefully plan and monitor their presence to ensure student success. To reiterate, student success is important because it increases student retention rates, which results in students taking more courses, and you being able to teach more courses.

Faculty-Student interactions are a key factor in student success, and therefore in student retention.

The there are many expectations that faculty contractually agree to perform over the duration of teaching an Distance Learning course. However, there are additional Best Practices that help support students, their learning, and ensure they feel comfortable asking whatever questions they have. The primary feature of these best practices are:

  • Visibility
  • Approachability

Best Practices for High Visibility


  1. Have daily access to high-speed internet, and log in daily.
  2. Answer emails within 24 hours on weekdays, 48 hours on weekends.
  3. Be online and present in your course at least 1 hour per day, 5 days per week.
  4. Participate in discussions. Post at least 5 substantial discussion posts each week.
  5. Make regular, clear announcements in the course.
  6. Maintain and participate in multiple modes of communication with students such as:
    • Discussions
    • Chat
    • Emails
    • Telephone
    • Text messaging/Instant messaging
  7. Hold regular office hours each week, and reiterate to students frequently how to contact you or meet with you during office hours.

Best Practices for High Approachability


  1. Give thoughtful, frequent, and detailed feedback and input on all assignments. Use feedback as an opportunity to teach students, not just grade the work.
  2. Reach out to poorly performing students. Be supportive, understanding, and considerate of their time/situations.
  3. Ensure the tone of communications deems you approachable, transparent, and clear.
  4. Avoid acronyms and “text speech” in your communications to be sure your words are clear to all students, even those for whom English is a second language, or those that use text-to-speech technologies for accessibility.
  5. Be responsive to student needs, and encourage their progress.
  6. Frequently encourage students to reach out to you, and reiterate your openness for communication.
  7. Be dedicated to student success, and frequently communicate this to them.