Photo: Pexels
Photo: Pexels

Leave No Student Behind in Cyberspace! Innovative Strategies for Online Teachers

Are you stuck trying to find ways to improve your online classes?

North American May 10, 2018

Are you stuck trying to find ways to improve your online classes? During a recent conference, I live blogged a session presented by Kenyatta Phelps from University Park as she shared great ideas on building inviting learning spaces for online classes. Here are a few strategies that particularly stood out to me.

Social Presence Matters

  • Don’t just oversee discussions. Engage students!
  • Use discussion forums to build community, encourage deep reflection, develop analytical skills, encourage the student to be the teacher/expert, and have them apply concepts directly.
  • Give learners opportunities to share their personal or professional experiences.

Types of Strategies

  • Online learning activities need to be aligned to the outcomes.
  • Discussion forums should be used as formative assessments.
  • Critical thinking skills – consider using podcasts, questions or debates.
  • Collaborative learning – promote student interaction and interdependency through case studies, brainstorming, study rooms online, and clarification of information.
  • Icebreakers – use video & audio to introduce learning activities.
  • Student feedback – ask students in a fun and engaging way for feedback about the assignments, the assessments, and the course.
  • Game-based learning – include simulations and adventures.

10 Specific Strategies and Tools

  • When students email you a lot, it’s because you’re not clear. Add more specifics to the course if you are getting too many emails with questions about the course.
  • Include video clips within the discussion forum – set up very specifically what the students are supposed to do, when to post, etc.
  • Set up scenarios embedded in the real world, such as scenarios from a work situation where they have to decide if these scenarios are ethical or not; many discussion forums include a group feature that allows students to work together.
  • Create a discussion forum for “study room” or “student café,” a place where students can chat.
  • Give students tools like MindMeister to do brainstorming activities.
  • Create a video to introduce yourself. Hearing a voice makes you feel real to the students. Animoto and Soundcloud work well for this.
  • Use Google Forms for an “exit ticket.” It can ask students what they learned in class or if they have any questions, or other very quick feedback.
  • Padlet can be used for thoughts on the course. Students can see what everyone else says and choose whether or not to include their name. This takes an open and courageous teacher!
  • Use a whiteboard tool to have students share short answers to different things. Embedding Padlet will work for this too.

Polleverywhere can be used for polling, and can be embedded in discussion forums.

Article adapted with permission from the original blog format.

Book recommendation – Teaching With Your mouth shut – a great option for faculty book clubs.

Article written and posted in English.


Janine Lim, PhD, serves Andrews University, USA, as Associate Dean for Online Higher Education, where her department supports faculty teaching on-campus and online. Learn more from her 20+ years of experience in distance education and instructional technology spanning the educational experience from elementary through lifelong learning. Visit Twitter ( or her blog (

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