In my day job I work in instructional design at a small health sciences college. I work with faculty in a lot of stages of their careers, and I often coach and teach faculty and adjunct instructors how to teach online. Some of these faculty have been teaching face-to-face courses for years and just need some help understanding how to transition to the new format (plus some help with the technology). Others are brand new to teaching and need a broader framework. It’s sometimes tricky to break the skills down and figure out where to start, especially when you are completely new to teaching in general.
This list is NOT a list of books about learning and learning design, but instead just focused on online teaching and online course design in higher education.
My Favorite Resource (a link)
My current absolute favorite resource for both groups is this 20-minute article at The Chronicle of Higher Education from Flower Darby, an instructional designer who has a new book out (more on that): How to Be a Better Online Teacher
I love how she breaks down the key concepts in a really simple and easy-to-digest way. She talks about showing up to your online class, being yourself, having empathy for students, organizing your course in an intuitive way (I could talk for days about this topic – but this is a great overview), using visuals, being clear on your expectations, scaffolding learning experiences, giving examples for assignments, setting up a welcoming online class, and just keep trying to improve over time. You should read this, regardless of where you are in your online teaching career.
Faculty Focus has a lot of free articles that are great resources for anyone teaching in higher ed, which includes online teaching. It’s worth looking at old articles and digging through the topics (on the right sidebar as of today), as well as signing up for their newsletter. They do have some offerings that you have to pay for, but the free resources are still worthwhile.
Online Learning Consortium (OLC)
The Online Learning Consortium provides a lot of professional development offerings, so if you are looking for webinars or short, online courses to grow, this is a great place to start. Many colleges and universities provide institutional-level memberships for faculty and instructors, so if you are already teaching somewhere, check with your school to see if you have access to this. Membership provides access to research studies, reports, and other resources on the site. They also provide resources on their blog that are free.
Mentor Commons and Magna Publications
This is another great resource if your college or university is a member. I’m a big fan of their 20-Minute Mentor Commons options, which are on-demand versions of a broad range of faculty development topics, including some in
- Online Course Design and Management
- Online Grading and Feedback
- Online Student Engagement
- Technology in Online Courses
My favorite is How Do I Design Innovative Assignments to Foster Learning in the Online Classroom? (login required) In the 20-minute video, they discuss the process for creating both formative and summative assignments and examples for each type. In the Supplemental PDF, there are a lot of really solid examples of assignments.
A Book about Facilitation
Excellent online teaching: Effective strategies for a successful semester online
If you are 100% new to teaching online and have an existing course, this is the best book to read that first semester. When I was teaching my first online course, I really struggled with how to word emails to students who are struggling and loved that this book provides examples of text to use. It also mirrored the areas I needed help. I carried it around in my bag all semester and referred to it several times a week, even though it’s a really tiny book. Highly recommended. You can pick it up for under $10.
Online Teaching Books
Some books focus specifically on teaching online while others are more focused on the design aspect. There’s always an overlap in these topics, but I’ve tried to separate them as much as possible to help you discern which are better books for you at this point.
Small Teaching Online: Applying Learning Science in Online Classes
Disclaimer: I have not actually read this book yet and am still waiting for it to arrive (I like to use smaller book sellers if I can wait, but this time I’m waiting like 2 weeks).
I have been really excited for this book. As a member of a faculty learning community, I have been digging into Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning this academic year and really appreciate his way of framing evidence-based teaching changes so that they are manageable and reasonable. My hope is that this new book, written with Flower Darby, is similar so have selected this as a topic for another faculty learning community next year.
Effective Online Teaching: Foundations and strategies for student success
This is a great book if you have been teaching for awhile and/or are an academic thinker. I find that it is definitely geared to someone who loves cognition and learning or just wants to frame their teaching around cognitive strategies. I often share her chapter on “Establishing Social Presence Through Learner-to-Learner Collaboration Strategies” for good models of online discussion and establishing critical thinking through discussion, as well as group projects and peer reviews. The chapter on “Establishing Instructor Presence Through Instructor-to-Learner Interaction Strategies” is also helpful, especially the communication checklist that gives specific ideas for encouraging student self-directedness and monitoring progress. There are also chapters on the foundations of cognition and learning, cognitive strategies to support learners, and managing an online course.
The Online Teaching Survival Guide: Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips
This is another great book for someone who has been teaching online for awhile. I do find that their framework is a little complicated, which is why I do not recommend it if you are new to online teaching. However, there is some great stuff here. We teach a lot of accelerated courses in our undergraduate and graduate programs, so the chapter on “Teaching Accelerated Intensive Courses” is one of my go-to resources for all faculty teaching these courses.
Building Online Learning Communities: Effective Strategies for the Virtual Classroom
Palloff and Pratt really are experts in social presence and community in online classes. This book has been around for awhile and has several editions, but frequently shows up as a recommended read. They write about how community changes (and needs to change) in an online course and how to manage technology and build community. I find this to be a nice blend of theory with practical guidance and recommend it when instructors are struggling to build community in online courses or miss the dynamics of the face-to-face classroom.
Teaching Online: A Practical Guide
I have not read this, but wanted to include it because I frequently see it recommended. It’s on my reading list!
Online Course Design Books
I’m an instructional designer. These books get me really excited.
Essentials of online course design: A standards-based guide
This is my favorite book if you are brand new to teaching online and just need the mechanics. I almost always recommend that you experience being an online student before being an online teacher, but if not, this is a great substitute. This book covers standard course elements, language and writing style for online courses, basics of visual design, and then techniques for engaging students and designing activities and assessment. I love this book for my instructors who come from a clinical background (and not necessarily an academic background).
Online Teaching at Its Best: Merging Instructional Design with Teaching and Learning Research
I use this book all the time, including as the text in the professional development course I teach on online course design. If you have read nothing about online course design, this is the best foundation in all of it. I don’t necessarily use it if you need to understand how to facilitate a course, but from a design perspective, it is great. I have literally handed out all of these chapters, depending on the context and what an instructor needs to know:
- Teaching at Its Best, No Matter What the Environment
- Setting Significant Outcomes
- Designing a Coherent Course
- Applying Cognitive Science to Online Teaching and Learning Strategies
- Motivating Elements: Course Policies, Communications, Assessments, and More
- Developing Interactivity, Social Connections, and Community
- Making Accessibility for Everyone Much Easier
- Creating a Supportive Culture for Online Teaching
Conquering the content: A blueprint for online course design and development
This book is SO good for the faculty member or instructional designer who is creating a new course or converting a face-to-face course to online AND needs help with the whole concept of chunking content. She covers content maps, creating a learning guide, and prioritizing content.
The Online Learning Idea Book
I find that some faculty struggle to come up with good online activities or ideas, so this is a good resource.
PA College library: YES (1st edition only)
Engaging the online learner: Activities and resources for creative instruction
My copy is a little dated, but this is another good resource for faculty who need help coming up with activities for activities and assessments.