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Teaching online

A page within CATL Teaching Improvement Guide

Brief Description

Teaching online typically requires considerable planning and development before the course begins. Unlike the traditional classroom, where lecture and face-to-face interaction take center stage, online courses require students to engage more directly with content and with one another to maintain focus and stay on track. This demands a high degree of self-direction on the part of learners and instructor savvy to motivate and engage students.

Consequently, courses offered fully online differ from face-to-face and even "blended" courses, in which students engage in a variety of online activities, typically ranging from 20-80% of class time. The resources below include an assortment of guides, tips, templates and resources that can help you plan and develop an effective, efficient and engaging online course.

Planning resources

  1. Alignment of Objectives and Assessment
    This short paper describes a visual process, using a taxonomy table, to align objectives and assessments for a module/unit or entire course. The paper includes an annotated before and after example of a revision based on gaps discovered by the table. You might also wish to download a blank Worksheet with which to plan or improve your own course.
  2. Online Course Planning Worksheet (Word document)Template, with examples and instructional notes, for planning a course. Includes columns for Module Learning Objectives, Assessment, Engagement, Teacher Presence, and Resources/Technology. Use this worksheet to align objectives, assessments and content, as well as plan out strategies for maintaining teaching presence and engaging students with significant learning experiences (activities). For a worksheet for individual modules or units, see our Module-Level Planning Worksheet.
  3. UWL Online Course Evaluation Guidelines
    These guidelines, developed by CATL staff, are intended to help instructors design, deliver and improve well-designed online courses.

Tips and Templates for Developing Content

  • The UWL Syllabus Guide: This site has information about creating a syllabus and includes templates. The templates include policies that should not be altered and suggested areas that can be customized for each course, and specific details should be considered for online courses. 

Online Teaching Tips

  1. 10 Online Teaching Tips
    10 essential suggestions for teaching an awesome online course, prepared by CATL instructional designers.
  2. Sample Welcome Email (Google Doc)This is a sample email letter that can be sent to students before your online class starts. The letter includes ideas of what to include in a letter to ensure your students are prepared for class on the first day it starts and that students are aware of the expectations for the online course. This is particularly important to send this out before a semester break so students know to get their textbook(s) from Textbook Rental before (if) leaving La Crosse while taking the course.
  3. UWL Online Education Handbook (Google Doc)Reference document identifying policies and general information related to online education at UWL. The handbook is divided into two sections: Policies and Procedures, and Online Teaching Recommendations.

Other Resources

  • Community of Inquiry (Website)This website serves as the semi-official, one-stop shop for the Community of Inquiry Framework (CoI). Arguably, CoI is one of the most influential approaches to designing and delivering deeply satisfying, significant learning experiences for the online classroom. The framework consists of three components:
    • Cognitive Presence
    • Social Presence
    • Teaching Presence
    This website offers research articles, discussions, best practices, and other publications, to include the official CoI Survey, by which you can gauge the effectiveness of your own online class, in terms of the three presences.
  • Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning
    Massive meta-analysis of over 1,000 studies of online learning. Undertaken by the US Dept. of Education in 2010, the study concluded that "students in online learning conditions performed modestly better than those receiving face-to-face instruction" (Abstract, p. ix).
  • Online Learning Consortium (Website)Formerly called Sloan-C, this national organization is dedicated to quality initiatives in online learning. Among their many resources are excellent journals, to include Online Learning (previously entitled, Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks). Note that UWL has an institutional membership.

Schankman, L. (2015, updated 2020) Teaching online. In Teaching Improvement Guide. University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning. Retrieved from: