How to Teach Online Courses Effectively

5 Tips for Effective Teaching Online Postgraduate Dental Programs - Focused, Interactive, Supplemental, Guided Discovery, and Rewards

I recommend five things that you should consider using if you want to teach interactively: focused lectures, interactive teaching, supplementation, guided and structured discovery, and rewards (F.I.S.G.R.)

1. Focused, Short, Up-to-Date Lectures

The first letter is “F” and it stand for focused, short, up-to-date lectures. When we say lectures, let’s explain what interactive e-learning experiences are and are not. They are not tedious 1-hour long, one-way lectures, they don’t use outdated materials or ideas and it does not, within reason, fail to comment on new ideas that students want to know about.

It is a brief (18 minutes max.) presentation that has been updated with discussion of new trends while maintaining the educator’s golden rule: “what you teach has to be evidence based!”

2. Interactive Teaching

In a face-to-face (F2F) classroom, you should engage the student in the class by asking individual students a question at different points in the lecture. If you don’t like potentially embarrassing a student you can use a “clickers” or now smartphones to have all the students vote on questions they pose during the class. The results are displayed on the screen and it keeps the student engaged with the lecturer.

In an asynchronous recorded lecture, you can do this also by embedding polls and questions inside the lecture recording. Another way to interact with students is to give them a set of more thoughtful questions that they would have to research and then respond to in writing on a web-based discussion board.

Here are four things I recommend when developing interactive teaching content:

  1. Record an active learning lecture using TED talk format (~18 min)
  2. Regularly update content by checking google and pub-med for new ideas, trends and even crazy stuff (must be evidence based)
  3. Put links in your lectures to helpful, freely-accessible documents and media (e.g. YouTube, podcasts; vlogs, recorded webinars)
  4. Embed questions and thoughtful discussion points inside your video

3. Supplementation

“S” stands for supplementation of your lectures (hopefully interactive) with written content that also has interactivity. Of course, maybe students won’t read this either, but if you make it essential and relevant to their goals (e.g. passing the course), they might!

One such example of supplementation is gamification to improve user learning and reduce learner apathy. One example of how we use gamification at the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC is through our Virtual Patient Game, which allows dental students opportunities to hone their diagnostic skills based on simulations of real-life patient case studies.


Play the Virtual Patient Game


4. Guided and Structured Discovery

Some educational purists don’t like guided and structured discovery, as they prefer that the students create their own learning needs based on a problem, and not be spoon fed questions to research.

I would disagree with this approach as I have found that without structure, the questions students generate are less sophisticated than one’s written by an expert in the field. My opinion is that the questions written by the faculty are usually more thoughtful, targeted and focused than those created by the students so I prefer guided and structured discovery over student generated learning needs.

5. Rewards

In general, the principle is that rewards motivate students. Milestones mark a student’s growth or progress towards the ultimate goal. EPAs are relatively new on the residency training scene. EPA stands for Entrustable Professional Activities. Completing an EPA and being certified as completing it is critical in the education of both medical and dental residents.

EPAs are used to determine when a resident (medical or dental can be indirectly supervised as opposed to directly supervised. This is an important distinction since direct supervision requires the attending faculty be present when a resident works with a patient but indirect supervision does not!

Stay tuned for more posts as we explore each of these topics in depth with examples and practical tips make your online teaching experience more effective and interactive for students.

Online Postgraduate Dental Degrees in Orofacial Pain and Oral Medicine

Do you want to deliver appropriate and safe care to your growing and aging dental patients? Consider enrolling in our online, competency-based certificate or master’s program in Orofacial Pain and Oral Medicine.


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