Use this teaching quality checklist as a planning tool for designing an online course. Most of the items in the checklist also apply to in-person courses. After you've finished developing your course materials, use the checklist again to review the completed materials, making sure you've included all of the necessary elements. Also review the e-Learning Center's Technical Quality Checklist to make sure your course web pages meet certain federal and university standards.
Tell students how and when to communicate with you.
- Provide accurate and appropriate instructor contact information.
- Include a schedule of online office hours or chat times.
- Indicate which types of communication should take place over which channels.
Personalize communication with students.
- Include a picture of yourself along with brief biographical information.
- Include an introduction activity during the first week of class (but be aware of students' FERPA preferences).
- In learning objectives and assignment instructions, address students as "you" rather than "the student."
Create a welcoming, safe online environment.
- Make your course hospitable for people of different genders, cultural backgrounds, and learning styles.
- Encourage and reward participation from all students.
- Discourage snide remarks, sarcasm, kidding, and conversation domination.
- Give negative comments to students privately.
- Post policies describing appropriate and inappropriate types of course communication.
Use online course features to encourage communication.
- Use asynchronous tools such as discussion boards and email.
- If feasible for your students, use real-time features such as chat rooms, whiteboards, and Elluminate.
- Provide telephone access as necessary, and consider conducting one or more teleconferences during the course.
Facilitate student interaction.
- At the beginning of the course, include an introduction activity that helps students get to know each other and gives students practice in using online tools such as discussions and email and uploading attachments.
- Organize your course material to enable student interaction with the content, with other students, and with the instructor.
- Provide discussion forums encouraging open and honest dialog.
- Explain why you are using online discussions and how students will be evaluated on their participation in discussions.
- Serve as a moderator for regular question/answer sessions throughout the class, and post summary remarks in a discussion open to all students.
Encourage group collaboration.
- Create teams of students to interact, collaborate on projects, and solve problems via discussions and email.
- Explain group members' roles, and establish guidelines for group interaction.
- Encourage students to hold virtual study sessions via chat or discussions.
- Post students' completed papers and assignments so that students can respond to others' work.
Provide opportunities for students to discuss and interact with the course material.
- Actively involve students through writing and interaction.
- Provide opportunities for students to articulate and revise their thinking, which aids in knowledge construction.
- Encourage students to "talk" about what they are learning via discussion boards.
- Craft questions to foster discussion and understanding.
- Assign students to present work to the class via bulletin board postings, chat, presentations.
- Post responses to frequently asked questions.
Provide content that enables critical analysis and reflection.
- Explain to students how the course readings, activities, assignments, and assessments help them achieve the learning objectives.
- Provide guiding questions to foster discussion and understanding.
- Make ancillary resources available as part of the course content.
- Give students opportunities to record their observations and to do self assessments.
Use real-world data or situations in assignments.
- Present problem-solving situations in a realistic context.
- Give assignments that provide students ample opportunity to practice and apply concepts and skills in realistic and relevant ways.
- Use real world experiences in teaching content to make subject matter more relevant.
- Ask students to relate outside events or work experiences to the subjects covered.
- Give students concrete, real world situations to analyze.
- Use simulations or labs in class.
Set expectations in writing.
- Tell students how quickly and how frequently you will respond to email and discussion postings.
- Tell students the turnaround time for grading assignments and assessments, and then stick to it.
- Provide weekly guidance and encouragement to the class.
Provide prompt feedback on assignments.
- Return assignments with comments quickly and within the stated period of time.
- Make sure comments on student work are constructive and nonthreatening.
- Grade assignments consistent with criteria set forth in the syllabus/module.
- Give students detailed feedback on performance early in term.
- Contact students who miss a chat.
- Provide both information feedback and acknowledgment feedback. Information feedback provides information or evaluation. Acknowledgement feedback confirms that some event has occurred.
Use quizzes and tests for feedback.
- Utilize built in, auto-graded quiz feature when appropriate.
- Give proctored examinations or other assessments.
- Align quizzes and tests with course objectives.
- Prepare classroom exercises and problems that give students immediate feedback on performance (self tests, for example).
Provide quick feedback in both synchronous and asynchronous settings.
- Provide students with continuous feedback and frequent support via email, chat and discussion postings.
- Take an active role in moderating discussions, providing feedback and participating in other interactive components.
Organize the course so that students and instructors use their time efficiently and effectively while focusing on the learning objectives.
- Establish clear goals and deadlines, and communicate these to students explicitly.
- At the beginning of the course, tell students how much time you expect them to spend on course activities, including assignments, studying, and preparing for and participating in class.
- Allow more time for student interactions than in traditional face-to-face courses.
- Make the first few reading assignments available online to allow students time to get the textbook.
- Make clear to students the amount of time needed to understand complex material.
- Include a list or calendar that shows all course deadlines in a single place so that students don't have to hunt for the information.
Use online tools effectively.
- Use Bb Vista's built-in email for all course-related email to avoid storing, searching, and sorting separate messages.
- Emphasize the importance of good study skills throughout course.
- Use teaching assistants to help with tasks, or assign some course tasks to students.
- Identify key concepts and allow sufficient time to cover them.
- Create an interactive learning environment, but do not overwhelm students (or the instructor) with excessive amounts of time-consuming interaction.
- Give students adequate time to complete assignments.
- Consider both in-class and out-of-class time requirements.
- Emphasize the importance of regular work, steady application, self pacing, and scheduling.
Provide clear and detailed written expectations.
- At the beginning of the course, clearly state institutional and class policies on cheating and plagiarism.
- Using clear, straightforward language, write your course objectives and intended learning outcomes, including them in the syllabus and in each learning module.
- Provide a guide to overall class structure.
- Provide a guide to appropriate language use.
- Explain grading criteria clearly, providing weights and values of graded components of the course.
- Clearly define expectations for participation, stating the minimum level of acceptable participation from students.
- Tell students that you expect them to work hard.
- Spell-check and proofread all of your course material, and tell students to do the same for their coursework.
Make sure that content and assignments are challenging.
- Make content and requirements as demanding as those in a corresponding face-to-face course.
- Write detailed, accurate instructions for assignments, and include examples of the types of finished assignments that you expect from students.
- Provide informative and corrective feedback on assignments.
- Help students set challenging goals for their own learning.
- Provide lists of suggested extra readings that support key points.
Reward excellence publicly.
- Use past students' projects and papers as examples for students to refer to.
- Tell students that you hope to use their excellent work as examples for future students.
- Celebrate in-class successes by naming students or groups that have done excellent work.
Provide avenues for students to ask for and receive assistance in understanding course materials.
- Suggest various learning strategies.
- Encourage students to ask questions when they don't understand.
- Provide extra material or exercises for students who lack essential background, knowledge, or skills.
Consider assessing students' learning styles at the beginning of the course.
- Find out about students' backgrounds, learning styles, interests at the beginning of the semester.
- Consider giving a Myers-Briggs type learning style assessment at the beginning of class.
Make your course accessible for students who have disabilities.
- Remind students to identify themselves to Disability Support Services if they want to request a particular disability accommodation.
- Provide equal access to materials in the course.
- Ensure that course materials comply with web accessibility standards.
Provide course content in a logical, consistent manner.
- Make content available to students in manageable, easily navigated segments.
- Establish and maintain a consistent style for the course materials.
- Content is presented in a logical progression.
- Explain theory from a practical approach first, then add the structural approach.
- Designed with a consistent structure, easily discernable to students of varying learning styles.
Use a variety of techniques for presenting course material.
- Provide opportunities for students to construct knowledge collaboratively, incorporating multiple perspectives, discussions, and reflection.
- Use links, notes, quizzes, self tests, graphics, photos, audio, video, and interactive multimedia to address different learning styles.
- Vary the types of interaction between students and the course material, students and the instructor, and among students.
- Use diverse teaching activities to address a broad spectrum of students.
This checklist was adapted from Distance Learning Dean’s Approved Quality Assurance Check List for Online Courses, created by the Distance Learning Task Force of Southern Polytechnic State University. Its framework is Chickering & Gamson's "Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education" (.pdf, 148 Kb; requires Adobe Reader or other PDF viewer).
Chickering, Arthur and Ehrmann, Stephen C. (1996) "Implementing the Seven Principles: Technology as Lever.” AAHE Bulletin, 1996, October, 3-6. Reprinted at http://www.tltgroup.org/programs/seven.html
Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education http://www.tss.uoguelph.ca/id/ta/tahb/tah8f.html
Graham, C, Cagiltay, K., Lim, B-R, Craner, J. and Duffy, T.M., "Seven Principles of Effective Teaching: A Practical Lens for Evaluating Online Courses.” The Technology Source, March/April 2001. Available online at http://technologysource.org/article/seven_principles_of_effective_teaching/
King, James W., University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Seven Principles of Good Teaching Practice http://www.agron.iastate.edu/nciss/kingsat2.html
Panitz, T., Cape Cod Community College, "Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education Implementation Ideas.” http://home.capecod.net/~tpanitz/7ideas.htm
"Quality On the Line: Benchmarks for Success in Internet-Based Distance Education.” Prepared by The Institute for Higher Education Policy, April 2000.
Raleigh, Cheryl, "Re: Student evaluation forms for online courses.” Online posting. 27 August 2004. Association of Teachers of Technical Writing.
Sunal, D., Sunal, C., Odell, M. and Sundberg, C., "Research-Supported Best Practices for Developing Online Learning.” Journal of Interactive Online Learning, Volume 2, Number 1, Summer, 2003. http://www.ncolr.org/jiol/issues/showissue.cfm?volID=2&IssueID=6