Guide to Teaching Online

You’ve just been notified that you will be teaching an online course in the upcoming semester. Whether you are a new or experienced online instructor, it is important to ensure that your course is set up to provide you and your students with a rich learning experience. The checklist below is not meant to be a definitive guide to teaching online, but a quick checklist to help you identify some of the tasks you should think of before and during your course.

Before Your Course Begins

  • Log into Brightspace at or through the University portal at and find our course.
  • Familiarize yourself with the features you will be using in your course.
  • Review your course content to ensure it contains everything students need for the semester.
  • Check the syllabus to ensure it covers everything you need students to know.
  • Check the dates on any assignments, discussions, quizzes or exams.
  • Ensure your discussion forum is set up and has all the topics that you need.
  • Ensure your groups are set up as required for the course.
  • Ensure that the assignments folders and gradebooks are set up.
  • Prepare a welcome message for the discussion forum or the news section on the course homepage.
  • Determine how you will respond to emails, post to the discussion forum, or if you will have online office hours. This information may be in your syllabus; if so, let students know.
  • Consider developing a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) list to help students with regular questions.
  • Visit CITL’s Technology Resources site for our resources about teaching and with using Brightspace.
  • Contact CITL’s Support Centre if you are have any problems.

Once Your Course Begins

In the first week

  • Welcome students to the course through the discussion forum or the news feature on the front page of the course.
  • Encourage students to introduce themselves in the discussion forum (make sure there’s a welcome topic in your discussion forum).
  • Advise students on how to contact you, where to find your messages in the discussion forum, how you will use the weekly news posting, and other relevant information.

Throughout the semester

  • Post a weekly news item to maintain your instructor presence (eg., reminder of weekly work, comments on previous week’s work or discussion, upcoming events or deadlines, or commentary on some current event that you may wish them to consider this week in their discussion).
  • Provide feedback on a regular basis—post a regular or weekly response or summary in the weekly discussion forum.
  • Check the discussion forum regularly to monitor discussion and address any confusion, issues, inappropriate postings, etc.
  • Remind students of netiquette if necessary.
  • Contact students who have not yet participated in the discussion forum.
  • Advise students of any deadlines or requirements that are not contained in the course material.
  • Clarify any issues or questions that students have by posting a message to the discussion forum or use the news feature.
  • Advise students of when they can expect feedback on any assessment.
  • Address any issues as they arise.
  • Ask for help when you need it. Contact CITL’s Support Centre.

For More Information

For further reading see Chickering and Gamson’s (1987) Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education, which are widely used as a standard for effective teaching. Here are some links which incorporate the principles.


  • Boettcher, J.V. (n.d.) Designing for Learning. Quick Guide for New Online Faculty. Retrieved from
  • Lee, R., & Dashew, B. (2011). Designed learner interactions in blended course delivery. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 15(1), 72-80.
  • Hanna, D. (2012). Online teaching and learning. Toronto: The Learning and Teaching Office, Ryerson University. Retrieved from:
Resource created by Lisa St.C.