Online Teaching Best Practices

Contact Hours

Typically 1 hour of instructor contact plus 2 hours of outside work are required to earn 1 college credit. As such, for a standard class, students are expected to spend 3 hours in class per week and 6 hours outside of class. In an accelerated class (8 weeks, for example), students are expected to spend about 5 hours in class per week and 10 hours outside of class.

Synchronous online courses also follow these guidelines, though as with every class, the design and content affect the delivery of the course. For more information on federal requirements for credit hours, see the Program Integrity Questions and Answers – Credit Hour page, in particular the statement that: “The requirement is that the institution determine that there is an amount of student work for a credit hour that reasonably approximates not less than one hour of class and two hours of out-of-class student work per week over a semester for a semester hour or a quarter for a quarter hour.”

Course Design

  • Provide a welcome message
  • Provide an introduction to each unit
  • Upload PowerPoints, notes, and recordings of synchronous sessions
  • Provide links to websites mentioned or viewed in the course
  • Provide assignment descriptions
  • Provide rubrics


  • Provide a “What I Can Expect From You” and a “What You Can Expect From Me” sections in your syllabus or online course homepage
  • Use the Announcements feature to provide weekly or daily updates on the course
  • Provide synchronous office hours via Blackboard Collaborate
  • Give students clear expectations about instructor response time:
    • Email: Within 24 hours
    • Discussion fora: Check daily and respond as soon as possible
    • Grading: Within 1 week