Tips for teaching online from Columbia and St Catherine’s University

The Minneapolis Star Tribune recently posted tips for online teaching from educators from Columbia and St Catherine’s University. Here’s where I get to show a little Katie pride’; I did my undergraduate and one of my graduate degrees at St Kate’s. They have been offering forms of distance learning since the 1980s.

Also I used to teach teachers how to integrate internet into the classroom. A common fear was that a student might know more about the technology. My only tip, assign them as helpers, embrace the collaboration – they just may grow up to be teachers after the experience.

Here are the experts’ tips for teaching online…

Before you begin, assess whether all of your students will have access to technology and the internet from home. Many students (even fully online students) still rely upon public or university-based resources and spaces to engage in their education. Perhaps the institution can purchase hot spots that can be checked out, along with laptops or mobile devices.

If you still have in-person time with your students, prepare them for what to expect. Attend to keeping them calm and letting them know where they can access important information and how communication will be handled. If possible, allow students time in class to practice interacting with the technology that you plan to use online.

As you prepare for your own use of technology, focus on your audio, video and how to show your students your slides or other materials. The audio will be most important, as students need to be able to hear you clearly. For students with hearing disabilities or students who have a different primary language than you do, you might need to consider automatic captioning, such as YouTube automatic captioning for prerecorded videos, which you can edit to meet requirements for accuracy. For your audio, best practices state that you will need to be in a quiet space and ideally use a headset with microphone. For your video, you can use a built-in webcam or for better quality can buy an external webcam that plugs into your computer. For sharing your computer screen and presenting slides, think about ways you can practice this with your institutional support, a colleague or even your family, and consider contingency plans, such as e-mailing your slides to your students or posting them in your course site.

To stay connected with your students, we recommend considering ways to meet with your class live and ways to communicate through e-mail or the use of learning management systems. You probably already have access to technology through your institution, such as Zoom or Google Hangouts, and your learning management system likely offers tools such as setting up tests online.

And a little extra credit…

Once you’re comfortable with the basics, there are many best practices to explore and apply such as: ways to promote online engagement, build online community, create frequent and purposeful interactions with students to support connection, use trauma-informed teaching and learning principles, and apply Universal Design for Learning principles to support accessibility, among others. You may even want to start weekly online meetings with fellow faculty members to share tips, activities and challenges that you’ve come across as you engage in online teaching and learning.

This entry was posted in education, MN and tagged by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (, hosts a radio show on MN music (, supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota ( and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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