Guidelines for Teaching Online

Tips for Inclusive Teaching

Provide for student diversity (learning styles, culture, physical ability) in planning and managing your class: 

  • Present important content in more than one format.  This includes lectures, written discussion summaries and/or media-based content.
  • Provide an appropriate variety and number of assessments (exams and assignments) to ensure that students can adequately demonstrate knowledge and skill.
  • Consider your students' visual capabilities when using font colors and sizes in your documents and Sakai site.  Less is more.
  • Provide transcripts for audio/video materials whenever possible.

Provide accommodations as needed. This includes (but is not limited to):

  • Complying with accommodation agreements established by the Student Access Office.
  • Handling legitimate reasons to miss assignments and/or examination deadlines.
  • Guiding the use of library resources in class assignments and promote student use of OHSU's Library Services.
  • Further information is available on accommodations and accessibility can be found on OHSU's Student Access page

Six weeks prior to class

  • Course design begins. Faculty should send syllabi and other design specifications to their assigned course developers.

One week prior to class

One week prior to the first day of class, be certain that the following elements are in your Sakai course site(s):

  • Your Sakai profile in My Workspace > Profile has an accurate e-mail address.  Including your photo is also recommended.
  • A welcoming announcement to students appears on the course homepage using the Announcements tool (lead instructor only).
  • The site's Gradebook setup includes all assignment titles, due dates, points  and weights (as noted in the syllabus).
  • An up-to-date biography of each instructor.
  • The information box on the site's homepage includes adequate instructions to orient students to the site's structure and expectations for getting started independently.
  • The posted syllabus includes the following:
    • Required texts and other course materials (if any), and course goals and related competencies.
    • Your contact information, office/contact hours, preferred method of contact, and your schedule of availability (office hours)
    • Grading criteria including explicit expectations for participation, policy on late submissions and a listing of project assignments and extra credit opportunities.
    • The course schedule, including all dates for weeks/units/modules and dates for all items due.
    • Classroom management/housekeeping items such as your preferred file formats, labeling conventions for assignments and how the students will be turning in assignments and/or participating in the course classroom along with any introductory information about the course.
    • Components required by your department or school. If provided, you must use the approved syllabus template of your department/school and consult with the program director on any changes.
    • Other required components such as academic honesty, student accommodation, inclement weather statement, etc.

Throughout the term

STRUCTURE:  Provide exemplary structured activities and content

  • Posted course goals/learning outcomes should match activities and assessments (Svinicki & McKeachie, 2011).
  • Class activities should take place in the course management system rather than externally (i.e.; e-mail, phone, etc.).
  • Students' professional expertise and experience are brought into the classroom through course content and forum discussions.
  • Written materials should be accurate and error-free, i.e., of scholarly quality, free of grammatical and spelling errors, include accurate citations for readings and handouts and accurate content/due dates.

COMMUNICATE:  Demonstrate good communication skills

  • Clearly state communication flow to students at the start of the term and then follow through with your stated plan.  Best practices include:
    • Respond to student inquiries within two business days even if it is just to let students know that you are working on the inquiry and will reply fully as soon as possible.
    • Provide timely and adequate feedback on all exams and assignments in two weeks or less.  Acknowledge strengths and offers recommendations for improvement and growth (Svinicki & McKeachie, 2011).
    • Immediately notify the students if you will be absent from a face-to-face class or be unable to participate in an online class for more than a few days.

GRADE: Grade and assess students fairly and accurately

  • Clearly state the grading criteria and create rubrics to grade without bias.  Manage student expectations regarding grading of all assignments, projects and class participation.
  • Post all grades promptly in the Gradebook even if hard copies are being returned in face-to-face classes. On minor or weekly assignments, return.grades and comments to students before the next class.  On major assignments (e.g., term papers, exams), return grades and comments within two weeks.
  • Emphasize the importance of originality in student work. If plagiarism or academic dishonesty is suspected, contact your program director or academic dean for counsel. 

INTERACT:  Interact with the class

  • Be "visible" and active in the online course at least three times a week to let students know you are involved and "listening." This might include:
    • Introducing the week's theme or recapping last week's learning.  This can be done as an announcement, voice-over PowerPoint or through some other posting. 
    • Posting content materials and forum topics on a consistent schedule.
    • Contributing to classroom forums so that students don't perceive them as busy work.
  • Manage forums actively to promote critical thinking, community-building and idea sharing.  If you use the discussion forum as the heart of your classroom, consider:
    • Creating a general forum where students can ask questions about the course, housekeeping, etc.
    • Creating at least one content-focused forum or topic for each week or unit of the course (if applicable).
    • Providing deadlines and clear guidelines for forum participation.
    • Initiating open-ended forum topics when appropriate which build a sense of community and collegiality outside of the grading schema.

MONITOR:  Ongoing monitoring of student and co-instructor activity

  • Maintain awareness of all students' activity levels and privately contact students who are not participating on a weekly basis. Contact the student's advisor, program coordinator, etc. if the student seems to be absent or failing.
  • Coordinate constantly with co-instructors and teaching support staff.
  • Conduct office hours (as referenced in your syllabus) using telephone, web conferencing or other technologies easily available to students.

At the end of the term

  • Post final term grades, online and with the Registrar's office, according to the OHSU and school/department grade submission policies.
  • If a student is to receive an incomplete (I) or in progress (IP), contact the student's advisor or program director to ensure that the student is in good standing and has no other outstanding issues.  Also, develop a learning plan with the student to document his/her intentions for completing assignments.


Svinicki, M. & McKeachie, W.J. (2011).  McKeachie's Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research and Theory for College and University Teachers. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.