Online Teaching and Learning- Is it Worthwhile?


As a Student, Which Online Course Should I Take?  

As a Teacher, How Can I Teach an Online Course Well?

Online learning can be so valuable to a student, because of the lower cost and one’s ability to work the class into a busy personal schedule.  But many expect that the online course will be less rigorous - a common belief is that when one takes an online course, one trades rigor for convenience. And I have seen cases where this is true - a course may simply be an upload of the textbook onto the computer and involve a fair amount of mindless clicking on answers.  Or the assessments may not assess anything, and just require simple google searching for each answer.

However, an online course, when structured correctly, can be even better and more rigorous, than the average face-to-face course! Below, I give three characteristics of an online course which can make it outshine (or at least equal) its average face-to-face counterpart. But first, a TIP and an Infographic.

TIP: When choosing an online course,  look for a course where the instructor works hard to create presence and community in the course, clearly organizes the course into specific and defined learning modules, and creatively uses different modes of presentation and assessment, taking advantage of some of the many creative online tools available.

INFOGRAPHIC:  Here is an Infographic I created on Piktochart for a course I took through California State University Channel Islands on “Humanizing Online Learning”.  It summarizes much of what we covered in the course, and gives some of my favorite links at the bottom.  The links are helpful for all teachers, whether or not you are considering teaching an online course. 

Creative Commons License
How to craft an online course with a human connection infographic by Hillary Tejada is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Here is the link to that infographic. So you can access the links.

SUMMARY - THREE CHARACTERISTICS OF A GREAT ONLINE COURSE: So in summary, what aspects can make an online course even better and more rigorous than an online course? The instructor, of course, is key.

First, a good online instructor will make a great effort to create ‘presence’ and community in the course.  This means creating various ways and incentives for the students to communicate with each other and the instructor - discussion boards, VoiceThreads, chat rooms, collaborations, videos, emails, phone calls, Zoom meetings, etc.  So a student who might not participate in face-to-face discussion, because of shyness or because he or she does not think fast on their feet, will participate in the online discussions.  This improves the learning experience for that student and for the class.  In addition, the instructor will ask for feedback on different aspects of the course, and implement changes suggested by the feedback, increasing a student’s ownership of the course.

Second, a good online instructor will be super organized and design the course backwards, carefully considering the course goals and purposefully choosing each activity that will best reach or assess each goal.  The instructor will divide the course into modules, with the objectives, assignments and rubrics clearly defined at the outset.  Since a teacher  doesn’t see his students three hours a week, where he can change plans and modify the course and repeat and clarify instructions as necessary, he is forced to carefully specify everything at the outset.  This allows the student to clearly know what is expected of them and to plan ahead.

Finally, a good online instructor will be creative.  She will vary the modes of presentation and the assignments, taking advantage of the many online tools now available.  Those who are weaker in writing, for example, may create a film or infographic for an assignment, demonstrating as much insightful mastery of the course material as would writing an essay.  And, most likely, the film would be shared with peers. This keeps the course interesting, and gives all the students an opportunity to shine. 


Yes, the right online course will be very worthwhile!