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WSU Online Courses > Teaching an Online Course > Best Practices
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Teaching an Online Course

Best Practices

  1. Timely, frequent and detailed feedback. Lack of feedback is the most frequent reason given by students for withdrawing from an online course.
  2. Use the grade book in the course space. This allows students to use the MyGrades link providing quick access so they can keep tabs on their progress.

    1. Keeping grades in the course space also helps with incompletes and resolution of complaints after the end of semester.
  3. Be in the course space and keep the students engaged. Instructors sometimes indicate they prefer to communicate with their students via email and not to access the course space. This is akin to not showing up in your on-campus classroom. There are several advantages to communicating from the course space.

    1. Using the Questions for Instructor, and responding to students through the other discussion forums provides access to that information to all students. Just like when you answer a question in the classroom.
    2. Communicating through the course space creates an archive in case of questions or issues regarding a student grade or incomplete.
    3. Communicating through the course space motivates the students to access the course space more often.
  4. One factor that diminishes success in online courses is students’ feeling isolated and remote. For this reason, we strongly advocate use of the Discussion Board and ongoing, asynchronous discussion. This engages the students in the course, with one another, and with the content, and helps to establish a learning community. If you need help facilitating this type of discussion, please talk with your Instructional Designer.
  5. Address "netiquette" issues promptly and directly. Don’t assume that students know what’s not appropriate to post on the Discussion Board, help them understand just as you would in the classroom. Address any questionable posts promptly; don’t let the problem get out of hand. If the situation escalates you may need to involve the WSU Dean of Students, or the Office of Student Standards and Accountability.

    1. See more information on netiquette. Also see The Core Rules of Netiquette.
  6. Be aware that many students review the entire course space when the course begins, and plan accordingly. Distance students are generally employed and have families, and don’t have much flexibility in their schedules. Therefore, making last minute changes can create a lot of stress in an online course. We recommend you not make changes in the course space or to the course (changing assignment or exam due dates) while the course is being delivered live.
  7. All WSU resources are available to you and your students – e.g., Counseling Services, the WSU Access Center (formerly the Disability Resource Center), eTutoring, Student Standards and Accountability, etc.

Information posted in the Discussion Board does not carry over from one semester to the next. If you find students are confused about something and you’re explaining it in the Discussion Board, talk with your Instructional Designer so the problem can be fixed before the course is offered again.


Can’t remember how to add a forum or document to your course space? We’ve got handy documents for you to review any time, day or night! Check them out here.

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