Pace University students looking at their laptop computers

Teaching Online Essentials

Teaching online takes a lot more planning and preparation than the traditional face to face environment. Pedagogically face to face teaching relies on synchronous interaction, content presented as lectures, hands-on and pencil and paper assessments. Teaching online while it may have some synchronous interaction the bulk of the course relies on asynchronous interactions including discussion forums, various means of content presentation including recorded video, PowerPoint, text based notes etc. Assessment in the online environment need to be planned out in advance and may include more research projects/presentations.

Operationally teaching online takes place over the course of a week. Typically the materials are broken down into weekly modules that the students access 24/7 from any geographic location with an internet connection. The online course may contain some synchronous meetings but does not rely on the synchronous meetings to the extent that the face to face courses do. Keep in mind students may be in different time zones and/or have different time commitments i.e. work.

As the instructor in an online class you are more of a facilitator, helping students build knowledge and guide their discussions while providing support and appropriate materials.

To assist you in the effort of teaching online the Faculty center has provided the following essentials for teaching online:

Teaching Online Essentials

Have a question about a topic that isn't listed here? For additional assistance, contact The Instructional Design Team at

Online Teaching

Key Components of an Online Course

Student Resources

  • Classes tutorial – Is our university’s Classes preparatory material provided to students? Are links to Classes documentation provided in the course?
  • Technical requirements – Are technical and system requirements clearly stated?
  • Additional supplemental technology – If any non-Classes electronic resources are used, is documentation provided? Is information and support available?
  • Pace Technical Resources – Are Pace’s internal technical support resources listed clearly (how to contact the help desk, access web support)?
  • Library – Are students encouraged to utilize the services and resources of the Library?
  • University policies – Are institutional policies such as academic integrity clearly stated or linked?

Course Guideline

  • Syllabus – Is the syllabus posted as a content item and as a downloadable file?
  • Course schedule – Is the course schedule (broken down by date and module) posted as a content item and as a downloadable file?
  • Course units, modules, lessons – Are the modules clearly delineated?
  • Learning outcomes – Are the learning outcomes clearly stated?
  • Faculty expectations – Are deadlines and cutoff dates clearly stated? Are assignments, grading commitments and expectations explained?
  • Contact information – Is contact info provided along with designated times for direct contact (i.e. “office hours”)

Course Content

  • Course files – Are course files clearly named? Are they compatible with the above-stated technical and system requirements?
  • Organization of course files – Are there files posted in a clear and organized manner?
  • Multimedia use – Is the multimedia content available? Is it coherent with technical requirements? Is it of good video and sound quality?


  • Is there frequent communication with the students?
  • Are announcements posted frequently?
  • Are the discussion boards active? Is the instructor participating?
  • Is there group work (where applicable)?
  • Are there efforts made to reach out to students who are not participating?
  • Are collaborative tools in use?


  • Assessment outline – Is there a rubric or point values or grading criteria provided?
  • Objectives – Does each assessment clearly relate to the learning outcomes?
  • Feedback – Does the instructor provide constructive feedback on assessments?
  • Grading – Is the Grade Center maintained in a timely, comprehensible fashion?
  • Proctoring – Are proctoring services of platforms in place to ensure academic integrity?

Course Observation Procedures for Online Courses Taught by Adjuncts

  • Each department chair (or his or her appointed delegate) will perform periodic observations (in adherence to the CBA) of online courses and the teaching practices and procedures.
  • Online course observations will be scheduled by the chair in consultation with the faculty member teaching online. During this consultation the faculty member may suggest modules appropriate for observation.
  • The chair will be enrolled as an observer in the course with the professor’s knowledge.
  • The faculty member may provide the chair access to any supplemental course-related materials. These materials must originate from the observed course.
  • The chair’s observation notes and results will be shared with the faculty member within one week.
  • If the chair is not familiar with teaching online they may take advantage of the resources provided by the Faculty Center regarding online course best practices.

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Technical Considerations

We want to start off the module by presenting certain technical issues you should consider. Being aware of these issues should alleviate concerns during the first week of your course. It is not necessary for you to have the most powerful or the most expensive computer available. However, you will need to have a relatively current computer with multimedia capability and Internet connectivity.

Additionally we recommend having the following software or free downloads for a more comfortable experience:


To take advantage of Classes' email interface it's critical to be aware of the following: When Classes gets automatically populated with students it also includes their Pace email as a default. Unfortunately we have found that many students either are not aware that their Pace email exists or simply don't use it. Therefore, you should notify your students of the importance of their Pace email and encourage them to use it! NOTE: Students have the option to "forward" their mail to any external account. Instructions for these procedures.

Course Shell Creation

As a result of the growing demand for use of the Classes System, the Faculty Center, along with the Information Technology Services (ITS), implemented procedures in which every course offered at Pace University automatically receives its own Classes site or "shell." Each course is given its own shell in which course content can be uploaded, documents transferred, and online interaction takes place. Please note that this process of adding faculty to their respective courses is based upon information received from the Banner system and is updated daily. As a result of the automation regarding the Classes system, all requests for Classes course shells should be sent directly to the ITS helpdesk. These requests include:

  • Creating New Courses/Organizations
  • Copying Courses
  • Adding Additional Instructors / Teaching Assistants to Courses
  • Technical Difficulty Issues
  • Roster Issues

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Ordering Textbooks

Books for all of Pace's online courses are available through the Pace online bookstore. Since it may take a week or longer to receive these books through the mail, you should encourage your students to order their books at least one week before the semester begins. That means that you should email the course syllabus and reading list as early as possible, perhaps after the student registers.

The Pace online bookstore. You are responsible for adding your books to the Pace Bookstore. Please submit your adoptions through Adoption & Insights Portal (AIP) In addition to Pace online bookstores, some students decide to use other online bookstores like Amazon. Please make sure that students have the ISBN numbers as well as the correct edition to ensure that they will purchase the correct version.

Students enrolled in a WWW course are encouraged to get their textbooks through the Pace online bookstore. However, if a student usually purchases textbooks for face-to-face classes at one of the campus bookstores, WWW textbooks will be available in campus bookstores. If a student cannot find a WWW textbook they should see a bookstore manager for assistance. Any student enrolled in a Web-Assisted (WA*) course will find their textbooks in the Pace bookstore on the designated campus where they will be attending classes. Students also have the option of ordering WA* textbooks using the Pace online bookstore.

NOTE: Instructors have the option to make their course(s) available up to 3 weeks prior to the official start date of the class. In doing so students can order their books in a timely manner.

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Initial Contact

Another item we want to raise is the importance of contacting the students before the start of the semester. As you may realize, there are several obstacles that make it challenging for student to get “connected” to the course. This last section reviews what you can do to overcome some of the obstacles. One of the long-standing arguments against distance education, in general, has been the belief that the distant student is alone and not part of a class. It is important to reach out to your students before the start of the course.

As you may know, students are able to register for online and face-to-face courses at the same time, without first contacting the instructor. Students who are new to online learning will be directed to an online tutorial. This tutorial contains information on navigating Classes, the nature of online learning and accessing support services. While this tutorial is not mandatory, it is strongly encouraged.

It is important that you communicate with the students to introduce yourself and the course and to reinforce information contained within the tutorial such as how to login, how to locate the Pace email and where to go for help. We recommend that you send a letter (see sample below) by email and/or by postal mail at least two weeks prior to the start of the semester. If you need help accessing students' addresses, please ask your department's secretary. It's always a good idea to request that the students respond back even if they do not have any questions.

Another important aspect of your initial contact is to set high expectations for the students. When you create your course documents make certain that the students understand the work that is required and that you have established clear grading standards. It is also important that you stress to the students that there are deadlines for assignments and, if applicable, for the discussion boards. Deadlines are recommended since many students think that a distance education course has an open-ended schedule.

Below is a sample letter that faculty have sent to students that can serve as a model for one of the initial contacts. Please read it over and feel free to copy any parts. Please note that you can email your class using the following email structure: -- with the CRN being the CRN for that particular course, and the term code being the semester of when the class is being given, i.e.:

  • 10 – Winter intercession
  • 20 – Spring
  • 30 – May intercession
  • 40 – Summer I
  • 50 – Summer II
  • 60 – August intercession
  • 70 – Fall

Sample Letter

Month Day, Year

Dear Student,

Welcome to [Course Name and #].This course is designed to provide you with....... Class will begin on [Date of first class]. Please explore Pace Online to gather some information about taking an online course. Brightspace, also known as Classes, is the software Pace uses to deliver its online classes. Each week you will log on to Classes to access lectures, notes, assignments, and the discussion board.

User Name: Every Pace University student receives a email address. Your username is your Pace email without the "" and it typically combines your first and last initial with a random number and campus identifier. Sample codes are: cw94975n, jc73732p, and tr87689w. If you don't know your Pace email address, you can find it at the University's white pages. NOTE: Change the Person Type search criteria to include students or students only.

Password: Your default password is the first letter of your first and last names followed by a dash and date of birth in MMDDYY format. Example, if your name is John Smith and DoB is Jan. 4th, 1998 your password would be js-010498. If you forgot your password you can have it reset by using the Password Reset utility. All email sent from your instructor and classmates within Classes will go to your Pace University email account.

Ordering Books: (At least two weeks before course begins) Books for online courses are available at any Pace University campus store, or through Pace's online bookstore.

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Building Community

Creating Community in an online course is essential in order to bridge the distance, enhance learning, motivate and retain students. Because students cannot see you or their peers, they may feel isolated. They need to know that you and the other students "out there" are actively engaged in the learning process. This does not happen automatically. One helpful resource on this topic is Building Learning Communities in Cyberspace by Palloff and Pratt (1999). Palloff and Pratt assert, "In distance education, attention needs to be paid to the developing sense of community within the group of participants in order for the learning process to be successful" (29). Faculty can begin creating this sense of community before the course begins by providing students with information about how and when the course will run.

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