Skip to Main Content

Online Teaching

Online Tips from NQ Faculty


NorQuest has many experienced and successful online educators. We asked our instructors to share their suggestions for encouraging and supporting online participation and learning. We’ve grouped these suggestions under three themes:

  • Creating an atmosphere for learning
  • Designing and delivering course content, and
  • Engaging and connecting students

[Online Teaching] by HaticeEROL, available under a pixabay licence at


Click on the tabs below to see these suggestions for synchronous and asynchronous classes.

Creating an atmosphere for learning

Faculty suggestions on creating an atmosphere for learning:

Daily or one-on-one interactions

  • Create or leverage many different avenues for communication - chat, messaging, phone calls, email, forums, small group work, paired work, check-ins, online cafes, online groups (FB or What's App).
  • Bring your “whole self”, show emotion, authenticity, grace, humor, inquiry, and vulnerability.
  • Go past assumptions and really listen, showing empathy and acknowledging that individual student circumstances vary. Find ways to support, beyond just the program outcomes?
  • Ask: “Hey, I notice… what might be going on?” There may be issues with connectivity, acculturation, home life, economic stress, difficulties in negotiating immigration, work, childcare, etc. Ask: “Is there is anything that is keeping you from learning?”
  • Conduct regular check-ins, provide encouragement, be available, watch for the signs, and reach out.
  • Instill confidence based upon validation and acknowledgement.
  • Model self-care.
  • Making channels available to students to connect with you one-on-one (office hours, chat boards, emails, individual calls).

Lesson or course design

  • Set office hours, Q and A time, drop in time to chat…
  • Include weekly check-ins in your schedule so that students can share challenges and insights. These are not formal lessons but just touch-points.
  • Log in early and check in with early arrivers, use the whiteboard or chat as a “fun” community check in, stay online after class.
  • Create an open, safe, authentic, supportive, two-way space right from day one. This needs to be said, but also demonstrated (modeled) and entrenched.
  • Point out the new mental health tab in Moodle for information about campus and community mental health supports.
  • Share the various supports at the college (mental health, academic advising, library support, accommodations, etc.)
  • Set communication expectations and model these for students in the first few lessons. Expectations may be related to politeness and respect, self-advocacy and inquiry, or authenticity and honest conversations.
  • Create forums so students can respond to big questions on their own time. One instructor mentioned that forums where students must respond to a question before they can see the responses of others has worked quite well for her.

For more information see: Optimizing the Online Experience

Designing and delivering course content

Faculty suggestions on design and delivery of course content

Daily or one-on-one interactions

  • Provide “breathing room”. Plan breaks, check-ins, etc. right into your syllabus.

Lesson or course design

  • You may want to have a cohesive design and planning approach to online learning in your department
  • Building an online course takes time – develop a ‘work plan’ that moves you through the various steps
  • Chunk, chunk, chunk! Don’t lecture too long or give students lengthy videos to watch prior to lessons. Break up the data dump with application work!
  • Chunk the content and activities, plan pauses for community and casual conversation, create space and intentional reflection points. Students need processing time and online we are never patient enough!
  • Provide choice in activities and assessments that still develop and expect competency.
  • Linking activities and assignments to lectures, labs, discussions. Again, this requires being very familiar with the course curricula and the GLOs and SLOs for your course. Keep reinforcing the learning outcomes and help students develop a professional lens through which they can assess and process situations and content.

For more information see: Maximizing Moodle

Engaging and connecting students

Faculty suggestions on engaging and connecting students:

  • Structure the course to enable small group discussions through breakout groups, virtual discussion groups, etc., in order to create spaces for comfortable collaboration and engagement between students
  • Find various ways for students to communicate, not every student is a verbal one, some need to interact in less overt ways.
  • Make learning fun and interactive with games, polling, posting forums, etc. Consider Kahoot, Cram, Quizlet, Mentimeter, Polly, Padlet, etc.
  • Use the features of BBCU well - flood the chat, use breakout rooms, allow student screen sharing, use whiteboard to value and validate student contributions.
  • Use the built-in features of BBCU effectively, the chat board, the polling, the status, the whiteboard, etc.
  • Put students into comfortable, smaller groups so that they can build up trust and connection. Set up the breakout rooms not by randomly assigning students but by making rooms for each group (a,b,c…) and telling students to go to the room for their group.
  • Using apps that build classroom community which engaging students in collaborative work.
  • Give students control, letting them have moderator status in BBCU so they can display their work, generate queries, and feel like an integral part of the learning.
  • Seek feedback from students using all-call mechanisms (thumbs up or down, flood the chat box, choose your response, etc.) on a regular basis (every five minutes?).
  • Ask for clarification and use Moodle forums/wikis in real time – sharing the screen and responding to discussions during synchronous sessions.
  • Use apps (Padlet, Mentimeter, etc.) and online repositories to have students collaborate and complete tasks in real time.
  • Offer students the opportunity to connect with each other outside of the classroom (via engaging discussion boards, text, WhatsApp, etc.).
  • Be mindful; plan social time, foster connections and interaction, create smaller kinship groupings, provide stimulating challenges, schedule regular check-ins, do individualized or small group wellness checks…
  • Build an online community between students, consider making home and away groups that travel through the semester.
  • Creating avenues for students to collaborate in safe groupings. Several instructors suggested using the “main room” in BBCU as a coffee shop or place for students to hang out between lessons. Another instructor shared how she used “home” and “away” groups, so students can get comfortable with two smaller groups of students. This helps promote connections and mutual accountability. To reinforce this, she created permanent open rooms group by creating term-long sessions in BBCU for each small group.

For more information see: Using Blackboard Collaborate Ultra interactively (video conferencing tool) and Using Additional Web Based Tools