Online Courses

Seven Principle Rules for Online Content

When developing your course activities and content, you may find using some or all of the following principles very useful for improving the online experience. Please try and incorporate them as much as possible in your online class.

The following principles are based on the "Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education," originally published in the AAHE Bulletin (Chickering & Gamson, 1987). The original seven principles have been used extensively as a popular framework for evaluating teaching in traditional, face-to-face courses and have recently been applied to online instruction by researchers and faculty.

Additional criteria were added from CARET: Center for Applied Research in Educational Technology. (CARET. 2002).

Principle 1: Good Practice Encourages Student-Faculty Contact.

  • Require students to use the eCollege email or other email tools to promote communication.
  • Specify how soon or when you will answer email.
  • Emphasize how the use of eCollege email or other email, as well as other forms of class participation (e.g. electronic group discussions), will be used as an integral part of the overall assessment of student performance.
  • Encourage (instructor included) all to share professional and personal data to promote interaction and personalize the online experience.
  • Allow students to submit a course evaluation and provide ongoing comments about their online experience.
  • Provide office hours including phone and FAX numbers.

Note: Please try to reply to student communications within 24-48 hours and send notices to the whole class a minimum of three times per week.

Principle 2: Good Practice Encourages Cooperation Among Students.

  • Require the use of the eCollege discussion tool and indicates its importance in the syllabus.
  • Assign small groups of students to have electronic discussions amongst themselves and to work on a specific task.
  • Encourage students to share personal stories to promote discussions.
  • Indicate the expected frequency, quality, and purpose of discussion postings from students.
  • Inform students how discussions, as well as other forms of class participation, are an integral part of the overall assessment of student performance.
  • Communicate an intention to monitor and participate in class discussions.
  • Specify what topics are to be discussed in electronic bulletin boards and take appropriate action if discussions stray from the topic.

Note: Please try to reply to student communications within 24-48 hours and send notices to the whole class a minimum of three times per week.

Principle 3: Good Practice Encourages Active Learning

  • Have students do projects and/or team presentations on eCollege.
  • Instruct students to review, comment, critique, or otherwise evaluate peer projects and/or presentations.
  • Promote student interaction with the online content via discussion postings, interactive web pages, self-quizzes, glossaries, or other action on the part of the student.
  • Provide different forms of self-assessments (e.g. multiple choice quizzes, short answers etc.).

Principle 4: Good Practice Gives Prompt Feedback

  • Acknowledging by email, all student inquiries and submissions of assignments and tests.
  • Provide meaningful feedback to student inquiries in a timely manner.
  • Evaluate assignments and tests in a timely manner.
  • Apprise students of overall course performance on a regular basis, such as a mid-term progress report.

Note: Research into Best Practices consistently indicates the importance of prompt, genuine, and meaningful feedback on student performance. Try to provide feedback on grades, quizzes and major assignments as soon as possible.

Principle 5: Good Practice Emphasizes Time on Task

  • Use the eCollege unit tool to organize course content.
  • Provide a clear and reasonable timeline to facilitate achieving the course objectives and identify regular milestones so that students may monitor their progress through the course (e.g. use of eCollege calendar).
  • Have a realistic and comprehensive schedule of due dates and incorporate the deadlines in the eCollege calendar and also explain consequences if they are not met.

Principle 6: Good Practice Communicates High Expectations

  • Clearly state expectations in syllabus.
  • Provide clear and concise directions throughout the course regarding assignments, projects, discussions and course navigation.
  • Use objectives that are consistent with the same or similar courses taught in a traditional format.
  • Use course objectives that meet standards as set by national and/or regional discipline-related professional organizations.
  • Cleary state your grading criteria.
  • Make your assessment activities require the same level of student achievement as traditional courses.
  • Communicate the time commitment expected of students.
  • Provide examples from previous exemplary projects or discussion postings.
  • Provide examples of what not to do.
  • Publicly praise those who did exemplary work to communicate high expectations.

Principle 7: Good Practice Respects Diverse Talents and Ways of Learning

  • Allow students to choose discussion topics, project topics, paper topics, etc. where appropriate.
  • Provide different forms of self-assessments or quizzes (e.g. multiple choice, short answers, matching etc.).
  • Provide alternative textual information for all audio/video presentations for ADA compliance.
  • Present content for diverse learning styles where feasible and appropriate (e.g. text, graphics, animation, video, audio, CD-ROM etc.).
  • Provide links to additional web resources such as tutorials, database web sites, examples, case studies, and other supplementary materials available to students.

CARET: Center for Applied Research in Educational Technology. (2002).
Chickering, A., & Gamson, Z. (1987). Seven principles of good practice in undergraduate education. AAHE Bulletin, 39, 3-7.
Chickering, A., & Reisser, L. (1993). Education and identity. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Graham, C., Cagiltay, K., Craner, J., Lim, B., & Duffy, T. M. (2000). Teaching in a Web-based distance learning environment: An evaluation summary based on four courses. Center for Research on Learning and Technology Technical Report No. 13-00. Indiana University Bloomington.