2 Essential, Engaged, and Exemplary

If you don’t read any other part of this book, read the bullet points below. These essential practices will elevate your online instruction as you grapple with, adopt, and polish your use of them. The following pages will explore these ideas in greater depth, but just knowing about them can have a real impact on your teaching.

Thirty-plus years of research, practice, feedback, and discussion regarding online instruction have created a rich body of evidence, examples, and know-how that enable instructors to make their online courses extraordinary and effective. In other words, experienced instructors and newcomers alike will benefit from ongoing critical engagement with their disciplines and with the best practices continually being developed and refined in online pedagogy.

There is, in fact, so much information and there are so many techniques and useful practices one can use in teaching online that many of us will simply not be able to grok even those narrower parts of the field that apply only to teaching in our areas of specialization. Happily, CSI employs learning designers and educational specialists whose expertise fills the gaps. Also, the Online Learning Committee developed a three-tier system of standards and practices intended to give even the most ambitious instructors plenty of headroom as they strive to improve their teaching and students’ learning online.

In addition to the “essential” standards outline in this text, we offer additional levels of specialization and achievement: “engaged” and “exemplary.”

Essential Practices

The Online Learning Committee selected twelve items for inclusion in the first draft of the “essential” practices published to faculty at the College of Southern Idaho. By “essential,” we mean best practices but not mandatory. Not every standard will apply to or be appropriate for every course in every discipline. Instructors use discretion and professional judgment in applying these elements.


  • Course content meets or exceeds disciplinary and accreditation standards.
  • Content is aligned with departmental, institutional, and accreditation standards.
  • SLOs and common course elements are clearly present and easily accessible.


  • Regular, timely, and human-centered interactions help learners feel that they belong in the course.
  • Meaningful interactions between instructor and learners, and/or between learners (peers) build a sense of connectedness rather than isolation.
  • Instructor presence is clear, human, and regular throughout the course.


  • Feedback on learner performance is individualized and human.
  • Feedback is actionable for learners.
  • Instructor provides opportunities for peer feedback, and/or individual reflection.

Course Design

  • Course design provides clear pathways through the course, from introductory material to content to assignments, feedback, assessments, and grades.
  • Course content is presented in multiple modalities.
  • Each assignment’s objectives, methodology, and assessments are easily discerned.

Engaged Practices

More soon.

Exemplary Practices 

Coming next year, probably.



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