The distinctions between online and classroom learning go beyond the medium. In a virtual learning environment, teachers present information, engage with students, and measure learning in very different ways. Students must understand some of the subjects while lecturers are unavailable, as online education demands increased independence. Professors must learn to engage more varied learners since online degree programs attract a higher percentage of out-of-region and atypical students, including working students, parents, and military personnel.

Many of these distinctions are addressed by increasingly complex online courseware, but only when teachers employ the correct tools in proper situations. This section lists the most common instructional and content distribution modalities used in online degree programs.

8 Effective Instructional Methods for Online Learning


How Does Technology Affect Online Learning?

Professors who are new to online education may take a technology-first approach to course design. However, this viewpoint could make teaching more difficult and lead to inferior learning outcomes. Instead, online teachers should prioritize learning objectives over technology, according to Jared Stein, Vice President of Research and Development at Canvas by Instructure.

Once online teachers have decided what they want to teach and how they want to teach it, they may look over the many online learning technologies available and choose the ones that best fit their needs. 

However, not all online courses are built the same: while some allow for an excellent level of scheduling freedom, others attempt to replicate a more traditional classroom setting online. Therefore, when selecting instructional tools and approaches, professors must keep these issues in mind.

Content delivery logistics

One element that distinguishes online degree programs from campus-based programs is that students are not required to attend class during planned sessions. However, some students still prefer live, interactive courses because they are just more convenient. Colleges and universities can now give lessons in either format, which impacts how instructors teach online classes. According to Dr. Susan Aldridge, president of Drexel University, selling online courses with virtual tools can assist online institutions in replicating the campus-based learning experience online.

"Online learning at Drexel is similar to on-ground learning in many aspects." Dr. Aldridge stated, "Our virtual students follow the same curriculum, study with the same faculty, and turn in the same assignments as their on-campus colleagues." "They're merely obtaining their degrees from afar in a virtual classroom rather than a physical one and engaging with their professors and peers through the miracles of technology."

Synchronous instruction

Synchronous instruction is as near to a live, traditional class as an online program can get. Professors use real-time learning and discussion technologies and online educational strategies.

Technology is essential when it comes to teaching online classes. How and when content is presented is both dependent on and informs instructional methods. Professors with big classrooms may find tools that allow students to interrupt lectures disruptive, as well as those that incorporate live, two-way video at will problematic. Technology that will enable professors to keep audio and video control while allowing students to ask questions and participate in discussions via live chat could provide a common ground. 

Additional more structured methods of dealing with class are meeting notes and conversations using asynchronous discussion boards. On the other hand, smaller classes may typically accommodate live, two-way audio and video, providing a personalized, classroom-like learning exposure.

Professors who teach synchronous courses aren't restricted to just one type of content delivery; they can combine it with other technologies to suit a broader range of students. The following are only a few examples of real-time communication tools:

  • Platforms for streaming video
  • Real-time support, individually or course-wide
  • Web-based conferencing software
  • Telephone availability
  • Virtual office hours

Although some online professors record and distribute lecture recordings and chat transcripts for students who miss class, each of these technologies encourages live involvement and conversation. However, such materials are frequently used in purely asynchronous courses.

Asynchronous instruction

Asynchronous courses are online courses that allow students to view lectures, access materials, and collaborate with lecturers and classmates on their own time. For example, lessons could be pre-recorded or presented on a program like Microsoft PowerPoint, with a voice-over from the lecturer. Students can review and re-learn classes as needed using these delivery modalities. 

Students who cannot attend regular sessions, choose to avoid live group projects or debates, or wish to work through lessons at their speed may find these options helpful.

Asynchronous material distribution methods necessitate a distinct approach to teaching, one that is strongly reliant on technology. Asynchronous online classes, like synchronous online classrooms, can be influenced by class size and instructor preferences. Many people use a combination of technologies, such as the ones listed below:

  • Downloadable pre-recorded lectures
  • Microsoft PowerPoint presentations with or without voice-over
  • Discussion boards and forums
  • Communication via email
  • Google Drive and similar collaborative tools

Virtual tutoring centers and virtual resource centers are examples of tools providing after-hours support.

Although these delivery methods enable teachers to overcome teaching problems, few programs use only one form of instruction. As a result, professors have access to a considerably bigger set of teaching resources. In addition, teachers and students benefit from understanding how different teaching approaches operate online and under what conditions.

Online course instructional strategies

Professors frequently adapt the same instructional approaches to the online teaching environment because online degree programs are designed to communicate the same knowledge and abilities as campus-based programs. In some cases, the only noticeable difference is delivery; in others, technology radically alters or enriches the learning process.

According to Carnegie Mellon and the Illinois Online Network, the teaching methodologies listed below are extensively employed in online courses (ION).

  • Lecture

On-campus and online lectures are likely the most common instructional approach utilized in higher education. Many online professors use lectures to transfer knowledge, increase comprehension, and pique students' interests, much as they would in a classroom. 

Instructors can usually record lectures, deliver them live, or do both with learning management systems (LMSes). However, it's important to remember that classes put students in a passive position, hurting student participation in an online learning environment. According to both CSN and the ION, online lectures are most effective when utilized in conjunction with more dynamic instructional tactics.

  • Discussion

Whether utilized in conjunction with lectures or as a stand-alone learning activity, it aids learning and actively involves online students in the education process. Learners can ask questions and convey their thoughts while honing their analytical and cognitive skills. According to Kenneth Chapman, many students prefer to participate in discussions online rather than in the classroom, Vice President of Market Strategy at Distance2Learn.

"One of the features of online learning is the ability to participate in a safe environment," Mr. Chapman added. "In a traditional classroom context, not all pupils have the confidence (or language abilities) to express themselves freely."

Professors use real-time chats and web-conferencing applications to pose questions and discuss course material in synchronous courses. Asynchronous students use discussion boards, Web forums, and social media technologies to communicate with their peers and lecturers.

  • Demonstrations

Teaching by example is just as common in online classes as it is in traditional ones. However, when it comes to conveying particular concepts and processes, demonstrations are a must. 

It can be as simple as using a logo maker or as complex as designing rocket engines; demonstration is vital for all parties involved. They're also one of the educational strategies that the virtual learning environment has helped to improve. Whether they delivered synchronous or asynchronous, online teachers routinely upload recorded video demos to the LMS. Students can go through these clips as many times as they need to to learn the course.

  • Simulations

Online students can put their practical skills and knowledge to the test via simulations offered in a realistic digital environment. Major colleges and universities sometimes use simulators to prepare online students for fieldwork typically done in a face-to-face situation. These virtual encounters can be used in a variety of subjects and specialties. For example, students can utilize simulations for dissection in online biology classes. At the same time, the University of Southern California uses managerial simulations that allow students to make decisions and see the results. According to Harvard Business Publishing, simulations reinforce fundamental concepts while allowing students to explore them in a real-world setting.

Simulator preparation used to be a time-consuming procedure. Still, today's best LMS platforms make it easier by allowing teachers to choose from several scenarios that complement course content. Professors might also look for similar simulations in open-source educational resources (OERs) like Merlot, which their producers make freely available.

  • Games

Games, like simulations, allow online students to obtain practical experience in a digitally accessible environment. They can also boost student engagement because they are more engaging and less stressful than simulations. To make the creation process more accessible, educational technology companies incorporate game-building programs directly into the LMS.

Online teachers can use leaderboards and other motivating tools to establish friendly competition and, as a result, drive students to master whatever skills and concepts the game is intended to convey. However, given the current generation, this technique can only create a healthy marketing funnel for your online learning platform.  

  • Case Studies

Another instructional strategy that engages students in active learning while encouraging research, problem-solving, and high-level cognitive skills is case studies. When done in a group setting, these tasks provide another avenue for online students to connect and learn from one another. In addition, instructors may find it beneficial to provide credible web resources for students to examine for information.

Case studies, according to CSN, work well in online courses and don't require much preparation. Instructors might look for case studies provided by other online lecturers by searching OER sites and databases.

  • Projects that are based on a problem

While actively solving issues, problem-based learning (PBL) helps students practice many skills as case studies. Projects are typically collaborative, and teams of online students can coordinate their work and integrate knowledge-sharing practices using collaborative document systems like Google Drive. Small group chats and forums can also serve as a testing ground for theories and debate.

This work, according to the ION, positions educators in a consultative rather than authoritative role. Instructors can access, develop, and share the type of inquiry-based assignments used in PBL projects using WebQuest, an online resource.

  • Guided Design

Guided design is an inquiry-based learning strategy that helps online students to become familiar with resources in their local areas. Learners are charged with solving open-ended challenges in driven design. This technique, unlike most PBL projects, requires students to do some work outside of class. The guided design encourages students to conduct their research, making it excellent for self-directed online degree programs. 

You can further better understand the design process by creating a chat for students, through which you can develop an open discussion and seek ways to improve online learning methods. 

Tomorrow's Online Teaching Methods

While online lecturers regularly employ the approaches indicated here, LMS makers are constantly adding new capabilities. Once they have these capabilities, many teachers struggle to identify which workloads are appropriate for their students' ages. Furthermore, it is essential to keep an eye on SPF records to identify and protect teachers' and students' email receivers and senders from spamming. 

Some new tools aid in the implementation of innovative teaching methods. Professors can track and preview growing capabilities on the official websites of LMS developers, then analyze their influence on student learning. 

Assessing the effectiveness of online instruction

Professors must evaluate how effectively an educational strategy is performing and adapt accordingly while teaching online courses for the first time. Professors can assess instructional success in a classroom setting using testing, student questions, and visual feedback during lectures. Through exams and student communications, online educators can evaluate various teaching approaches, but the data-driven aspect of online technology allows for less subjective measurement of effectiveness. Such credibility helps in improving your organization's online reputation management, which can only be positive. 

Learning management systems can track each student's progress and actions and then collect them for instructor inspection. For example, learning analytics tells professors how frequently students log in, how much time they spend on each task, and how well they understand the topic. This type of tracking can be beneficial. 

Learning analytics enable teachers to immediately discover areas of the problem at any time, allowing them to change their teaching methods, course materials, or objectives as needed. Teachers who are new to online instruction and would benefit from further support in this area—or online education in general—should not hesitate to seek it out.

Teaching support for online instructors

Professors who are shifting from classroom to online teaching might use a variety of resources to help them. For example, they can talk to online teaching veterans on campus or through online communities or go to regional and national conferences focused on the most acceptable online teaching practices and learning management platforms. Professors can also review pertinent papers, trends, and case studies by consulting digital periodicals such as the Online Learning Journal. To prevent email from being fabricated, SaaS teams also want analytics capability for email. For example, email authentication prevents hazardous email uses like spamming when an organization sends SaaS webinar email templates.

While these tools can be handy to instructors throughout their online teaching careers, those available on campus can give focused instruction and assistance using the same LMS and institutional processes as professors. In addition, formal university training programs, technological support services, and other departments focusing on online learning or instructional design can assist online educators.


The contours of the education system are altering in response to efforts to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, with online education becoming the dominant mode of instruction. To keep up with the curriculum, universities and institutions are turning to online platforms. It's too early to determine how students and teachers will cope with online learning while finding the restrictions and reorienting to handle them. Still, teachers' and students' perceptions and preparation are critical factors to consider.

With the rising use of online learning, both professors and students share equal responsibility for learning. Therefore, the successful delivery of online classroom sessions will need innovative teaching methodologies and the seamless integration of technology into the teaching process.

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