Instructional Strategies for a Successful Online Course

4 min read

| Lindsey Gervais, Digital Pedagogy Specialist, Gale |

Developing an online course can be a daunting task, let alone transitioning online midway through the semester. It can also be frustrating to know you’re removing that face-to-face interaction with students. This is especially important if you exude a particular personality or tone they’re well acquainted with and that provokes a level of engagement that you fear won’t be as fruitful online. 

So let’s get the first strategy out of the way now: Take a deep breath—there are resources at your institution and school district that can help migrate and organize materials so you can get back to what you love doing most: teaching. For all of our Gale instructors and learners, we’ve provided everything you need, and more, to navigate your way through virtual learning during this time of transition on our COVID-19 Go Virtual page

Below are the 5 Instructional Strategies for a Successful Online Course

COMMUNICATE: You may feel as though this is elevated exponentially in the online format, but there are a number of ways you can reduce that initial shock. Reset your expectations to include your cadence for posting and collecting assignments, how content will be distributed, and offering real-time discussion opportunities with students through a forum or virtual office hours. STRATEGY: Send out a weekly video to students with reminders and updates or email a learning newsletter reviewing the week’s content and activities, along with guided questions to facilitate student learning. Is it the beginning of the course? Don’t forget to have your students introduce themselves and encourage them to respond to each other’s introductions to get the dialogue going!  
PERSONALIZE: It’s more important than ever to add your own personal touch to the gap created between you and your students in an online learning environment. STRATEGY: Leverage narrated PowerPoint presentations and webinars as well as ongoing feedback to supplement the reinforcement they would receive when they’re in a face-to-face course. 
BE EXPLICIT: As you journey through your course, start each lesson by stating the overarching objectives and use resources online to expand on your existing materials that align to these objectives. STRATEGY: There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when you can demonstrate what great digital literacy skills look like to your students with what’s readily available online. 
USE A VARIETY OF TOOL FORMATS: From videos to graphics to online games, there are many digital tools that can assist in developing knowledge around your objectives—especially to raise engagement and confidence with the material. STRATEGY: Collaborate with colleagues and do some research on YouTube videos, learning management system (LMS) functions, collaborative discussions, and more that achieve curricular objectives on your syllabus. Be sure to attend to accessibility standards to make your course an effective learning experience for all students. 
CREATE A SAFE ENVIRONMENT: Build positive rapport by using open, friendly communication; being approachable; and showing respect and courtesy, while also promoting a level of patience and lightheartedness. STRATEGY: Demonstrating a level of understanding for the effort behind participating in an online learning community can make the social rules of engagement in the course more practical and feasible for your students. That’s why accepting and offering feedback in a variety of ways is an impactful attribute to the success of an online course. 

How Can Gale Help?
We recognize librarians and educators are rapidly adjusting to online learning. While we have opened access to resources through our COVID-19 support site to help with a quick transition, relying on materials to which you have sustained access through your library, district or statewide consortia can ensure continuity of curriculum following this acute response period. With that in mind, we’re encouraging customers to optimize their current resources for online learning. Learn how to find your resources and get the most out of Gale’s learning-focused platforms with features like unlimited simultaneous user access, LMS integration and more.


Lindsey Gervais

Lindsey Gervais is a Digital Pedagogy Specialist at Gale where she assists in the learning design and development of Gale’s Digital Scholarship Program. With a doctorate background and research recognition in the field of Cognition, Instruction, and Learning Technology, Lindsey is helping to elevate the instructional framework of Gale’s Digital Scholar Lab. She is a graduate of UCONN and taught Educational Psychology and Research Practicum for undergraduate and graduate students for 6 years. She also prides herself on her creativity, being a coffee “snob”, and endless devotion to the performing arts.

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