Thursday, June 28, 2007

Faculty Development for Online Teaching and Learning

The Office of Lifelong Learning offers faculty development sessions on issues related to online education. These sessions are frequently available for viewing at each campus. Information on these sessions is posted at the beginning of each semester.

An archive of these sessions is available at:

Monday, June 25, 2007

Questions about Blackboard

In an effort to learn more about your needs as instructors, we ask you to contribute your thoughts about teaching online to this post.

We are seeking more information about what you need or would like to do with your online teaching.

We look forward to hearing from you

Instructional Design Services at TWU

Instructional designers assist and support faculty to develop pedagogically sound strategies and materials for teaching and learning. Instructional designers are available to help faculty members plan their online instructional needs and to suggest pedagogical strategies and technologies to impact student learning.

Instructional design staff members work with individual faculty members to answer questions about online instruction. These consultations are valuable to plan course development or to discuss ways to incorporate new technologies or strategies into existing course materials.

Online instruction employs some of the same instructional methods as traditional delivery but there are key differences. Our role is to showcase promising practices and provide support to help faculty understand these key differences. Instructional designers can assist faculty to plan electronically-delivered courses or materials to take advantage of the strengths of the virtual environment. Limited production services are available to allow faculty to create content while instructional designers upload materials to the web.


Keith Restine
Manager, Instructional Design
Stoddard Hall, 306

Alli Peterson
Senior Instructional Design Specialist
Stoddard Hall, 306

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Post Your Turn-around Time for Communications

Why? It is good practice to post the expected turn-around time for all communications from the instructor. We suggest you insert a statement explaining how soon you will respond to email correspondence. It is also a good idea to include information on when grades will be posted from assignments. One tip is to use the Announcement feature to announce that grades are posted for an assignment. Posting this information early in the course will reduce the number of individual inquiries about routine matters.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Use of Color for Emphasis

These comments came from participants in the February Quality Matters Peer Review course.

“…I use different colors to separate one announcement from another or to create emphasis (as someone else mentioned they do with bold and italics). I also color code specific files or folders. For instance, when I make a test available, I use red. The students open a folder with activities all in the same color and there's the red test.”

“…use colors in my Blackboard course. For example, I always use this shade of blue when I contribute on the discussion board...I call it "Brain-base blue." I don't use a lot of colors for my folders and links, but my Word documents and other attachments have lots of colors.”

“…I write online lectures for students that are visually appealing (colors, pictures, borders, etc) and in first-person voice.”

“… just use Word to add borders and other visual features to my documents. I haven't always done this, but I'm trying to be more aware of how my writing looks visually, especially in an online format.”

Source document: Promising Practices Contributed by QM Peer Reviewer Training Group, February 2007)

Monday, June 11, 2007

Be Sure to Provide Specific Instructions on How Students are Expected to Interact Online

Why? We may assume that everyone knows how to interact in online communication but realize that many users are self-taught. Consequently, you should provide a handout on netiquette or create course specific policies for online communication. If you google “netiquette” you will find more than enough variations of netiquette rules. We prefer “course rules on online communication” so you can shape specific attitudes and establish a tone for all online communication. One that we encourage you to use to require students to change the subject line for all replies to a sender. All subject lines should include a few pertinent words to indicate the content of the correspondence. If you don’t do this, all responses in a Thread may look exactly the same and force you (and everyone else using the Forum) to blindly go through each response. All of us have had to go through our in-box looking through numerous emails with the same subject. Clearly and explicitly post your expectations for online communication for discussion boards, email, and chat.

Monday, June 4, 2007

What in the World is Lurking?

Students who read threaded discussion responses without participating are known as ‘lurkers.” Lurkers review online communication without contributing in some way to the discussion. Lurking is a common practice on the Internet. Lurking is not necessarily a bad thing. Research being done at the UT System TeleCampus is attempting to identify characteristics of lurkers and apply these findings to the educational environment. Although the research is preliminary at best, one key finding is that learning styles and personality characteristics appear to be powerful influences in the amount of interaction noted in online courses. Although interaction is an important part of the online course, there may be merit to the realization that all students will not prefer to interact in the same way. Allowing alternative interactions may encourage students who prefer to interact in different ways to gain greater satisfaction from online coursework.

Friday, June 1, 2007


Why? Always include complete contact information for technical support services available through the university and post this in a visible location in the course. You want students to have easy access to this information. Some instructors create a special menu item for this section. We encourage you to also create a PDF of the contact information for technical support so students can print the document and keep it handy for emergencies. One of the techniques you might consider is creating an anonymous discussion forum called Tech Help or something similar. Students can ask questions about the LMS tools or techniques without embarrassment since no names are attached. If you establish the expectation that students should reply and share knowledge and tips, many times the students will answer the questions without a reply from you.