Here’s the Syllabus for Your Summer Crash Course in Online Education

Remote Learning

Here’s the Syllabus for Your Summer Crash Course in Online Education

By Rebecca Koenig     May 7, 2020

Here’s the Syllabus for Your Summer Crash Course in Online Education

This article is part of the collection: Sustaining Higher Education in the Coronavirus Crisis.

You learned how to Zoom, or Hangout, or Team up. You read all the quick tips about emergency remote teaching. You recorded your lectures or gathered via video call with however many students you could reach each week.

You pivoted, shifted and, let’s be real, maybe stumbled into a makeshift version of online education. At last, final grades—or pass/fail marks—are turned in.

Congratulations, you made it through the virtual semester.

Now what?

No one knows yet what the next semester will bring, but there’s a good chance the spaces where you used to teach, whether cavernous lecture hall or cozy seminar room, won’t be available this fall.

That’s right, more virtual class time may be in your future. So this summer might be the right time to learn a little more about online pedagogy.

Maybe you don’t have a choice, because you’re under pressure from administrators and students to take your remote teaching to the next level. Or maybe you’re actually kind of intrigued by this whole online learning thing.

Either way, if you think it’s time to improve your online teaching game, you’ve come to the right place. Welcome to your summer crash course in online education.

Below, you’ll find a syllabus intended to help you advance from emergency remote instruction toward more substantive practices and philosophies. The recommended readings and key concepts were suggested by experts across higher ed. Main contributors are credited at the end.

Is your favorite resource missing? Disagree with something featured here? Let us know at

Don’t worry, you don’t have to read it all. And you won’t be graded for this course—at least not by us. But no matter what modes your teaching takes in the future, hopefully this syllabus will be a good way for you to start digging deeper into online education.

Good luck!

Key Concepts

  • Good teaching is good teaching, regardless of whether it happens in a classroom, on Zoom or any other delivery modality.
  • Engaging with students, and helping them engage with each other, requires different strategies online than it does face-to-face. Online instructors may serve more as facilitators than as lecturers. Consider connection and community before content.
  • Some students may encounter challenges participating in online courses, either because they don’t have technology resources or because they need special accommodations. Can you deliver content in smaller pieces? Is your course mobile-phone friendly? Does it work for students who have trouble hearing?
  • Consider the academic and social supports students may need outside of class time, such as virtual office hours, time to connect with librarians, and opportunities for research and service learning.
  • Online classes are often recorded. What does that mean for faculty academic freedom, student participation in discussions and questions about intellectual property? Can community guidelines help?
  • Remember there are humans on the other side of the screen.

Course Materials

Journals: Hybrid Pedagogy; Online Learning

Best Practices for Teaching with Emerging Technologies,” by Michelle Pacansky-Brock (book), describes practical tools to support student learning.

Building Online Learning Communities: Effective Strategies for the Virtual Classroom,” by Rena M. Palloff and Keith Pratt (book), provides case studies about building community in online environments.

Care, Communication, Support: Core for Designing Meaningful Online Collaborative Learning,” by Heather Robinson, Whitney Kilgore, Scott Warren (article), offers insight about communication and collaboration online.

Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age,” by George Siemens (article), lays out a new learning theory for the modern era.

Design and application of micro-learning video in flipped classroom,” by Jing Chang and Deng Dong Liu (article), explores the use of micro-lessons in a flipped classroom model.

Effective Online Teaching,” by Tina Stavredes (book), goes deep into pedagogical and instructional design theory.

Employing Equity-Minded & Culturally-Affirming Teaching and Learning Practices in Virtual Learning Communities,” by Luke Wood and Frank Harris (video), explains how to be intentional about building equity into online courses.

Engaging the Online Learner: Activities and Resources for Creative Instruction,” by Rita-Marie Conrad and J. Ana Donaldson (book), gives practical guidance.

Essentials of Online Course Design: A Standards-Based Guide (Essentials of Online Learning)” by Marjorie Vai and Kristen Sosulski (book), offers course design considerations.

High-Impact Practices in Online Education: Research and Best Practices,” edited by Kathryn E. Linder and Chrysanthemum Mattison Hayes (book), explains how to translate seminars, learning communities, research opportunities and service learning projects online.

Intentional Tech: Principles to Guide the Use of Educational Technology in College Teaching,” by Derek Bruff (book), matches your class goals with relevant technology.

Small Teaching Online: Applying Learning Science in Online Classes,” by Flower Darby and James M. Lang (book), provides ideas on how to engage learners.

Teaching in a Digital Age,” by A.W. (Tony) Bates (book), explores teaching with technology and gives a framework for making teaching decisions.

Thrive Online: A New Approach for College Educators,” by Shannon Riggs (book), dispels myths about online education and emphasizes the importance of course design and facilitation.

UDL in the Cloud: How to Design and Deliver Online Education Using Universal Design for Learning,” by Katie Novak and Tom Thibodeau (book), addresses accessibility in terms of digital access and disabilities.

When the Tide Goes Out: Identifying and Supporting Struggling Students in Online Courses,” by Marie A. Revak (article), explains why online students have lower retention rates and offers guidance about how to figure out when and why yours are having trouble.

Why I Won’t Let My Classes Be Recorded,” by John Villasenor (article), briefly discusses surveillance concerns in online classrooms.

25 Years of Ed Tech (Issues in Distance Education),” by Martin Weller (book), describes primary educational technologies that have shaped education.

Contributors To This Syllabus

Bonni Stachowiak, dean of teaching and learning at Vanguard University of Southern California and host of the Teaching in Higher Ed podcast.

Cali Morrison, associate dean of alternative learning at American Public University System.

Jessica Valera, science teacher.

Karen Srba, dean of Saint Francis University.

MJ Bishop, associate vice chancellor and director of the William E. Kirwan Center for Academic Innovation at University System of Maryland.

Nolan Jones, associate adjunct professor of education and director of online programs at Mills College.

Ray Schroeder, senior fellow at UPCEA and associate vice chancellor for online learning at the University of Illinois at Springfield.

Whitney Kilgore, chief academic officer of iDesign.

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