Teaching Online

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Teaching in an online environment can be quite different than teaching in a classroom. Teaching online requires specific competencies and skills associated with effective online course teaching and facilitation.

There are many elements to consider when facilitating an online course. This page includes a number of helpful resources that focus on key topics and issues relevant to teaching online, such as building community online, motivating students, and workload and time management.


New Instructors 

If you are new to teaching distance education (DE) at the University of Guelph (UofG), we encourage you to get in touch with OpenEd as soon as possible to get oriented with the online learning environment and distance education practices.

Meeting with Our Quality Assurance Team

An online learning quality assurance specialist (QA) from our DE team supports each DE offering. As a first step, you are encouraged to meet with our QA team to discuss the course that you have been assigned to teach. For more information or to set up a meeting, contact our Online Course Preparation team.

Preparing the Course

OpenEd partners with academic departments and instructors to maintain distance education courses. Regular maintenance ensures content and activities are current, relevant and engaging for our students. The DE team contacts departments approximately six weeks before each semester to initiate the course preparation process and to begin the setup of upcoming online courses. As part of this process, instructors are asked to fill out a course preparation form—a form used to confirm course textbooks and resources, ARES eReserve lists, copyright items, web materials and course updates. In general, the preparation process is intended to accommodate minor revisions to courses and to ensure currency, accuracy and consistency of the course content and materials.

Please note that registered distance education students can access all materials, content and assignment instructions once the course website opens.

If you are a new instructor assigned to teach an existing online course, contact our Online Course Preparation team. Please note that desk copies of textbooks are ordered through your departmental secretary.


DE courses are offered entirely online using CourseLink, U of G's online learning management system (LMS). Within CourseLink you will find a website for each of the DE courses that you are teaching. The system organizes and displays course materials, manages grades and tracks and reports student interactions. As long as you have a reliable Internet connection, your course will be accessible from anywhere in the world.

System Requirements

In order to facilitate a distance education course, it is recommended that you have high speed Internet along with the proper computer system and software requirements. We recommend that you review our computer system and software requirements to verify if your computer meets the minimum specifications. In addition, follow this quick system check to determine if your computer is set up correctly to participate online.

Some DE courses may have additional technology, software or equipment requirements. Our DE team is happy to provide you with the basic training needed to use any of the technologies used in the course you are facilitating.

Instructor Training: Effective Online Facilitation

Facilitating Your Distance Education Course is a three-hour workshop intended for instructors and teaching assistants facilitating U of G's distance education courses. If you are new to distance education or would like a refresher course, you are welcome to attend.

Part 1 of the workshop is focused on orienting new instructors to distance education at U of G and providing practical tips and strategies for facilitating an online course.

Part 2 of the workshop provides an overview of a typical online learning environment and how to use the various tools in CourseLink to effectively facilitate a course.

The workshop is generally offered during the week before the start of each semester. If you are interested in learning more about this workshop, or are interested in upcoming sessions, please contact our Online Course Preparation team.

Best Practices for Teaching Online

Teaching in an online environment can be quite different than teaching in a classroom. Teaching online requires specific competencies and skills associated with effective online course teaching and facilitation.

Before the Course Begins

Before your online course begins, it is important that you feel confident using the tools in the online learning environment and that you become familiar with how the course is set up. The following are some of the key activities to consider:

  • Create an effective course outline that communicates course expectations, guidelines of online behaviour, and course organization
  • Effectively use the learning management system (LMS) and other technologies selected to support the course, including Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat
  • Possess an understanding of copyright and intellectual property issues in using content in an online course

During the Course

If you are new to teaching online, fostering an engaging and interactive online learning environment for your students may seem challenging. The following are a number of strategies and considerations to keep in mind during the course:

  • Teach students about online learning and help them to connect materials with their own personal learning styles
  • Promote active learning techniques and relate the subject matter to students' interests and experiences
  • Develop relationships with students and encourage social interaction between students
  • Encourage the exchange of ideas, arguments and perspectives among students to facilitate the development of a community of learners
  • Promote collaborative learning and model good participation; if needed, redirect the discussion if headed in the wrong direction
  • Create ongoing opportunities for reflection, critical analysis, and self-exploration
  • Encourage students to respect the course schedule and assignment submission due dates
  • Provide students with meaningful feedback on their assignments and participation in a timely fashion
  • Maintain frequent contact with students
  • Effectively and efficiently manage and administer the course
  • Be sensitive to disabilities and diversities, and respect various ways of learning
  • Monitor student compliance to the University's academic integrity polices
  • Effectively navigate the course website and use the tools of the course LMS

After the Course Ends

The end of a course can be busy but it is important to continue to engage with students, take care of administrative tasks, and take time to reflect on your practice. Consider following these steps as the course comes to a close:

  • Provide students with assignment grades and submit final grades to your academic department
  • Give prompt feedback to students on final papers and tests
  • Evaluate your own teachings

If you are facilitating a distance education offering at the University of Guelph, review the Checklist for Facilitating a Distance Education Course.

Additional Resources

Resources for Teaching Online 

Teaching Online

There is a lot of information to take in when teaching online for the first time. The resources included in this section will provide you with foundational knowledge to get started.

Facilitating Online Discussions

Discussions are often a core component of the assessment in an online course. The following resources provide guidance and best practices on how to engage students in online discussion:

Workload and Time Management Strategies

The resources in this section provide guidance on how to manage the online environment and tasks related to your teaching duties.