Best Practices for Teaching Online

Teaching online shares many fundamental principles with teaching face-to-face in traditional classrooms. Best practices in online learning, much like those in face- to-face classrooms, must include all the required elements for excellence rather than overemphasis on one facet. Too often, focus is placed on one aspect of the process - course design, for example - without recognizing that excellent online learning cannot occur without attention to course design, development and delivery:

Course Design

"Course design" refers to designing a course for online delivery, assuming that the syllabus has been approved by the curriculum committee. This curriculum information provides the basis for the course design. Key elements of course design, as presented in a syllabus, include the learning objectives, activities and materials, and assessments. Several institutions have created guidelines, standards, and best practices for excellence in online course design. At UNC, the Quality Matters rubric has been adopted as the guideline to assess online/hybrid course design. If you are designing a course offered through your department, contact CETL for more information about the Quality Matters Rubric. If you are designing a course offered through the Office of Extended Studies, contact the Instructional Design and Development (IDD) team at or (970) 351-2944.

Course Development

Primary responsibility for the development of online courses at UNC rests with the faculty member who is teaching the course. UNC has a standard format for all Blackboard courses, which can be customized by the faculty member. It is the faculty member’s responsibility to populate the Blackboard course with course documents, resources, discussion boards, and grade center layouts.  If the course has been taught online previously, the experienced faculty member might share content, streamlining the development process.

If you are not familiar with Blackboard (or need a refresher), the Blackboard Support site has a Faculty section with self-help documents and tutorials on Blackboard functions. In addition, this site contains a section on Planning a Course which provides helpful resources.

If you would like to attend a training session on Blackboard, contact CETL at (970) 351-2885. If the course you are teaching does not show up when you access Blackboard, contact the Department for whom you are teaching. It is possible that the course was not scheduled to have an online component or that yo have not been put in the course as an instructor. The Blackboard system syncs with the Banner (URSA) system at 11:00 am and 4:00 pm daily. Changes to Banner affecting course enrollments, merging with other courses, etc. updated during these sync times.

Online Course Delivery

For detailed tips and instructions on Delivering an Online Course, please see page 35, Chapter Four, “Teaching a Class (During the Term).”