Starting Your Online Course

An effective online or hybrid course should incorporate teaching strategies that enhance learner-learner interactions, learner-content interactions, and student-instructor interactions. As you start your online course, you need to establish quick trust and promote social presence. You also want to get acquainted with your student’ backgrounds, their personal learning goals and their points of learning readiness. It is recommended that you:

  • make course expectations clear and explicit,
  • model effective engagement with course content through your engagement in discussions and/or through announcements, and
  • ensure all students are engaged and present.

(Boettcher & Conrad, 2010, p. 10)

Online Icebreakers

The purpose of icebreaker activities is to open lines of communication among students in a nonthreatening manner and to establish the presence of participants in the online community (Conrad & Donaldson, 2011).

Checklist for an effective icebreaker:

  • Is the activity fun?
  • Is it person-focused not content-focused?
  • Does it require learners to read one another’s entries?
  • Does it require the learner to find something is common with at least 10% of the learning community?
  • Does it require a person to be imaginative or express genuine emotions or openness?
  • Are learners required to responds to one another?


  • Title: One Word
  • Objective: To introduce student’s interests and self-perception to peers.
  • Authors: Rita-Marie Conrad, Ph.D., Florida State University and and J. Ana Donaldson, Ed.D., Walden University.
  • Method: Asynchronous and Synchronous
  • Method: Each student think of one word the best describes him/her. Enter the word in the subject line in the discussion board forum, then explain the rational behind choosing this word in the body of the post. Students review entries from other students and respond another peer. Find at least two nouns that the two of you have in common by the end of the week.

“The activity and recommendation is from the book “Engaging the Online Learner: Activities and Resources for Creative Instruction” (2010). Rita-Marie Conrad, a teacher and designer of online university courses, and J. Ana Donaldson, educational technology, University of Northern Iowa.”

 Technology Tools:

  • Google Apps: Google Apps at Ryerson is a package of web applications that includes Gmail, Calendar, Drive (Docs, Forms, Presentation, Spreadsheet), Contacts, and Mobile.
  • Google Drive is used to share documents, sheets, presentations and online forms. These tools promote collaborative learning.

More tools here

Additional Resources:

Slides from workshop on Student Engagement And Interactions Online: Tips, Strategies and Tools, offered on October 11, 2013

Creating an Effective Online Instructor Presence, Community College Research Centre, Teachers College, Columbia University


Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Conrad, R., & Donaldson, J. A. (2011). Engaging the online learner: Activities and resources for creative instruction (Updated ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

This entry was posted in Teaching Online, Teaching Technology. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *