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Assessing Your Online Teaching Skills

By McGraw-Hill Education 2 years agoNo Comments
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In almost any Canadian college or university, there are options for students to study online. Whether through distance education, the integration of ed-tech into the classroom or taking a blended learning approach like the flipped classroom, it can be beneficial to instructors like you to have knowledge of the online teaching realm.

Not only what course options are available to be developed, but how your role as an online instructor can be developed and assessed for improvement.

If you’re looking for new ways to assess and improve your own skills as an online instructor, check out the breakdown of the Online Teaching Competency Matrix below, developed by two Canadian researchers.


Developing Online Teaching Skills: The Research

Heather M. Farmer from Sheridan College and Jennifer Ramsdale from Fleming College decided to tackle this subject in their study on Teaching Competencies for the Online Environment.

As noted by Farmer and Ramsdale, the concept of competency-based education (CBE) has been around for decades. Competencies themselves can be described as a collection of behaviours that confirm the skills of an individual. CBE helps to:

  • Determine activities or traits of a good instructor
  • Provide flexibility in the speed of delivery
  • Support individualized learning

In this study, the researchers reviewed existing literature to help develop the Online Teaching Competency Matrix, made up of five key areas: Community & Netiquette, Active Teaching/Facilitating, Instructional Design, Tools and Technology and Leadership & Instruction.

Each of the key areas is further broken down, with the help of Bloom’s revised taxonomy, into three performance levels: emerging, developing and proficient. This allows instructors using this method to assess their online teaching skills, determine where they stand in each area and how they can improve.

  • Emerging Level: refers to remembering and understanding, basic knowledge needed by instructors in competency
  • Developing Level: refers to applying and analyzing, instructors are proficient in emerging levels but also have experience and working knowledge of competency
  • Proficient Level: refers to creating and evaluating, instructors show a high understanding and level of expertise in competency

Each of these skills can be found and described in the five online teaching competencies described below.


The Five Key Areas of Online Teaching Skills Development

Community & Netiquette

For this competency, instructors create a positive space for online learning, supporting students to develop their growth. An inclusive community is established where students are encouraged to interact, discuss and collaborate by following the lead of the instructor.

Emerging Competencies

  • Build list of participants and encourage netiquette through support of positive discussions
  • Determine areas of course content that may lead to conflict, address poor behaviour on an individual level
  • Create a student-centred space with authentic experiences while maintaining the privacy of students through established guidelines

Developing Competencies

  • Have students share their learnings and knowledge with classmates while directing communications to ensure a safe learning environment
  • Provide a behaviour model for students to encourage a safe learning space and teach communication skills that allow students to be able to resolve conflicts
  • Encourage students to be responsible for their learning and promote true engagement through challenge and appropriate support

Proficient Competencies

  • Support student collaboration with team tasks, projects and conversation
  • Create an online learning environment where students can safely exchange ideas through online communication in a supportive and authentic manor
  • Show proficiency in managing conflict that may arise through teamwork and work with confidence to encourage engagement for individuals and groups


Active Learning

Instructors teaching for this competency are aiming to create a participatory space for students in an online classroom. Learners are kept on task through consistent interaction while being provided appropriate feedback and support, adjusting materials and assessing teaching strategies. Students have a larger sense of inclusivity between their instructors and their peers.

Emerging Competencies

  • Grading is made available for students
  • Interaction is promoted through comments, online office hours and email communications, also encouraging one-on-one conversations
  • Keep students on track with clear instructions and referencing appropriate learning resources for course content and by providing advice when asked by students
  • Keep students interested by reducing amount of lecture style presentation

Developing Competencies

  • Provide proper assessment and explanations to ensure student understanding
  • Model and commend positive student discussions to help encourage and reinforce learner contributions
  • Demonstrate patience and respect for students as well as understanding that they are learning the content
  • Change lecture content to encourage students to take part in online environments and include chances to practice cognitive skills when presenting new content

Proficient Competencies

  • Promptly deliver feedback that is helpful and detailed
  • Teach and model effective communication styles to promote meaningful interactivity among students
  • Monitor and consider teaching and learning experience to synchronize and resynchronize your strategies used for teaching
  • Assess your role as facilitator to ensure you are contributing the right amount to student discussion
  • Support learning by providing content structure using scaffolding and layering of content
5 Key Areas of Online Teaching Skills Development

Instructional Design

For this competency, instructors ensure the program learning outcomes are supported by learner experiences and the course curriculum. Learning methodologies are used by instructors to assist with the flow of content, activities and testing. When integrating technology into the course, user experience is considered. Through instructional design, learners partake in unique, hands-on activities that help share and grow knowledge while building solutions.

Emerging Competencies

  • Learning time frames are established, including assignment due dates and discussions times
  • Existing course design strategies and activities that are compliant with technological limitations are established
  • Incorporate time for administrative tasks and keep an eye on student’s compliance with academic integrity and plagiarism rules
  • Discover best practices for teaching and learning online through research

Developing Competencies

  • Provide examples of proper time management so students do not become overwhelmed
  • Discover existing curriculum and build upon it with additional resources to allow students to further immerse themselves into course content
  • Align learner capabilities with course activities and technologies and incorporate different methods of assessment when evaluating student work
  • Show significance between course activities and outlined learning outcomes by employing motivational strategies
  • Improve teaching by judging effectiveness of online classes and materials and considering your experiences and information of online instruction

Proficient Competencies

  • Elevate learning and organization through the development of digital study guides and techniques
  • Take full advantage of technical efficiency through the use of new digital curriculum and instructional design methods
  • Encourage students to produce and generate their own content
  • Develop activities and assignments that push learners to find explanations or solutions aligned to your learning outcomes
  • Use personal reflection and research to create online learning and teaching models


Tools & Technology

Online instructors within this competency consciously build and organize learning tools and technology that can be integrated into their teaching. Technologies are assessed before being implemented to ensure they align to course objectives, provide ease of use and are productive. Students are not focused on how to use the tool, but rather the course skills it provides.

Emerging Competencies

  • Be aware of where technical support can be found at your institution and understand available tech and tools within your field
  • Explain policies and guides of your institution’s LMS and use it to give feedback to students
  • Use sources and model proper citation protocols to encourage the respect of other’s intellectual property rights
  • Update and edit digital learning materials that are distributed to students

Developing Competencies

  • Ability to provide assistance to students for course tech and tools and incorporate multimedia technologies that align to learning activities
  • Proven ability to use tech present in online classroom, including LMS
  • Ability to take advantage of course analytics to track how students are progressing and use new ways to show feedback in digital environment
  • Recognize connections between media type usage and behaviour and assess which tools help to best achieve learning outcomes

Proficient Competencies

  • Allow learners to focus on current tasks by providing organized tools and technology
  • Provide various styles and types of online learning environments
  • Use technology to help develop meaning for students and monitor use of course tools to find areas of improvement
  • Use course analytics to track trends and struggling learners
  • Manage your workload with the help of online tools and strategies
  • Increase student engagement through the design of learning resources that incorporate technology


Leadership & Instruction

As an online instructor, acting as a leader and facilitator is the crucial role you must play. It’s your responsibility to guide your class, focus conversations, give examples and exhibit behaviours that show and teach students the concepts and skills that are critical to your course. Your ability to fulfill this role will help your students direct activities and learning experiences in your course and their program as a whole.

Emerging Competencies

  • Understands that contributions of colleagues and students help aid in your success
  • Able to maintain discussion and questions on core course content concepts while maintaining an inclusive teaching and learning style
  • Upkeep a knowledge of plagiarism policies, guidelines to shape professional practice, sources of student support and your institution’s systems and processes

Developing Competencies

  • Encourage and support your peers and learners to help promote great work and remain positive when changes or setbacks arise
  • Emphasize important concepts by highlighting connections between discussions
  • Create a fair classroom by applying rules in an unbiased fashion
  • Find and share knowledge from a variety of sources

Proficient Competencies

  • Begin learning experience with a planned system of procedural leadership that can be maintained throughout the course
  • Align to goals of course when designing learning materials and keep diversity of students in mind to create an environment where everybody is respected
  • Reduce negative impact of work on life and vice-versa by effectively managing stress
  • Build trust by exhibiting effective behaviour and rewarding that behaviour
  • Actively look for ways to develop both professionally and personally, showing your commitment to continuous learning


Using the OTC for Online Teaching Evaluation

After developing the OTC, the researchers determined that it can be used to assess online teaching skills in three different ways.

3 Ways to Use the Online Teaching Competency
  1. Self-Assessment Tool

The first way the OTC can be used is on an individual level. Instructors like yourself can use it as a guideline to reflect on your practice, promote self-awareness and ways you can help improve your teaching skills. By reflecting on your work, you may decide to incorporate new technology, your responsiveness or the instructional design of your classroom.

  1. Portfolio Development Guidelines

The second way the OTC can be used on an individual level is by using it to help build a professional portfolio in regards to each competency area.

The OTC can also be used as a way for instructors or teams to identify areas they need to improve, allowing them to submit requests for training or development to help build an important set of skills. If a skill or knowledge gap is identified, a request for training can be made or you can conduct your own research to help fill the gap.

  1. Professional Development Learning Outcomes

The researchers suggest that the OTC can also be used on a larger scale by institutions or teams to provide professional development. The framework can be used to better understand the needs of instructors, help to identify learning outcomes and to measure the success of what they offer as professional development.


Whether you’re a seasoned online instructor or new the field, reviewing the competencies developed in this research can help guide you to making improvements. No matter if they are small are large, making any improvements when it comes to teaching can have a large impact on the education and learning of your students.

  Course Design, eLearning, Higher Education
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