Tips and Tricks of Successful Online Instructors

In a recent article ‘Teaching Strategies of Award-Winning Online Instructors’ by Michael Ralph, the author cited exciting facts gleaned from a research study. The researchers – Swapna Kumar, Florence Martin, Albert Ritzhaupt, and Kiran Budhrani, published their findings in the open-access journal Online Learning.

The study examined the common techniques used by top-rated instructors who devote most of their time teaching online. The researchers interviewed university-level instructors. The main goal was to examine these instructors’ approaches.  

Authentic and relevant course material 

There is so much online content and references. You can link to them and still provide a robust learning experience. However, try to include real examples.

If you are teaching a science course, for example, you might want to add a real-time study on a popular science topic. When you ask students to analyze the data of real-time research, they must use critical thinking and be engaged with their responses. 

In the study, the teachers gave the following examples: 

1. Recording from a radio show where instructors tell students to discuss in an online discussion or forum.

2. Videos, preferably from a real-life setting, add value because they can watch and listen while taking notes

3. Provide recorded podcasts from subject matter experts on the topic. Podcasts are different from audio lectures. Podcasts are more like radio shows.

Variety of Multimedia Resources 

Provide media in a variety of formats. Flexible media choices give the student a wide array of content that keeps them engaged. The instructors gave examples such as: 

1. Newspaper clips, interactive maps, radio broadcasts (especially if your university has a radio station)
2. Instruct students to write a paper on the topic. Include a format such as a debate where they communicate their opinion.
3. Student creation of content
4. Student reflection on learning
5. Explanation of purpose.

Use content from your students 

When you first begin teaching online, you may not have much student content to use online. Although you may have content contributed by your students from a traditional classroom setting, it takes time for you to convert it into an online format. 

If you incorporate individual and group collaboration, you will be amazed at how much great content you can glean from your students.

There are several ways to give assignments that also generate reusable content as part of the class:

1. Instructors who responded to the questions for the research overwhelmingly like to assign projects where students create PowerPoint presentations about their chosen (or assigned) topic.

2. Other instructors preferred reading assignments where the student has to produce a short podcast and record it.

3. There may not be a more collaborative exercise than debates and critical discussions. With social learning or discussion groups, instructors frequently find new content or new ideas.

Student Reflection 

Perhaps a less used but essential exercise is to ensure the student has time to think and reflect on the subject. Give assignments that make students think about the topic in different ways.

For example, does the topic have any social implications? If so, perhaps the student can write about any synergies with their lives.

Another example is to have them discuss pros and cons of a topic, making them think and reflect on why they can or cannot support a thought or belief. 

The successful online instructors provided multiple quizzes, posts, podcasts, and papers with prompts with a goal towards student reflection. 

Students must believe there is a purpose in their work 

We’ve all been there. We are struggling to complete a task while thinking that you are wasting your time. Students often feel the same frustration. While the student may have a bad attitude, most often, it is the fault of the instructor. 

Students get motivated and excited when they see a purpose in their work assignments. If they feel they are wasting their time, they exert less quality effort and report a neutral or unfavorable opinion of the course or even the instructor.

Ensuring students believe a class is worthy of their time can be daunting at times; however, a great instructor must do that in both classroom, virtual classroom, and online delivery. 


The main takeaway – you can’t just take the material you’ve provided in class and put it online. 

We must take a creative approach. We must adapt the content for an online format. Choose your content carefully. Choose the material in which you can offer interactive learning activities. The student ultimately learns on their own, but the content provided determines student satisfaction. 

Instancy’s Learning Content Management System is the glue that allows instructors and instructional designers to craft the best course content possible.

Incorporating mainstream use cases but adding educational technology to its product offerings makes Instancy stand out among its peers.

Harvey Singh, the founder of Instancy, got his start at Stanford and conducting educational technology research for Apple. He built the Instancy Learning Content Management System (iLCMS) from the ground up – with each component carefully designed for the best use of technology for training professionals.

Few platforms have authoring tools that automatically convert content from Microsoft Word and PowerPoint into online course content. Few platforms have data analytics, which is the best way to see how your students react to the content.

Few have the sophistication of progressive web apps and native mobile apps. Instancy’s eCommerce functionality and ease of third-party integration are not available in competitive products. 

Don’t take our word for it. Schedule a time to chat and brainstorm – we learn so much by our prospects and customers. If you would like to see the Instancy system, from a learner, administrator, or instructor/designer perspective, sign up for a 30-day free trial

We look forward to meeting you! 

About Harvey Singh

Harvey Singh is the founder of Instancy, an enterprise web and mobile knowledge distribution and workflow company. Harvey is a pioneer in Internet Learning Platforms and Distance Education. A graduate of Stanford University, he dedicates his work to transforming the educational user experience through the use of technology. There are many LMS platforms - but only ONE designed by Harvey and the Instancy team.

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