While engaging content is critical to a successful course, studies show that the most important part of online instruction occurs after your content is developed and the course is built online. Surveys of online students in a variety of disciplines have revealed that active faculty involvement appears to be the most favored course feature. Learners appreciate the frequency and quality of instructor/student contact, the turnaround time on feedback on assignments and queries to the discussion board, regularly scheduled chats, and proactive contact with lurkers—students who appear to be registered but who do not participate in course dialog.
Watch for Lurkers
Be especially attentive to students who appear to have fallen behind. In class, it is far more straightforward to determine a student’s level of engagement and understanding based on their behavior—the “knit brow” is the give away—but online it is not so easy determine whether a student is following the material. Instead, be sensitive to subtle cues: decreased activity level, diminished quality, and delayed responses. The best approach is to communicate with the student to determine a reason for the change in behavior and work with them to find a solution.