Instructional Best Practices Using Technology

The following instructional best practices using technology are broken down into four categories:


The Guidelines for Synchronous Assignments is a list of endorsed best practices that you may wish to explore and/or implement in your online course.


Instructional Design

Well-designed course pages, rubrics, lessons, and assignments are paramount to superior design of online courses. Instructional materials should be presented in a visual format appropriate to the online environment. Breaking instructional units into smaller parts can enhance learning and increase motivation (Cornell & Martins, 1997; Keller & Burkman, 1993).


The definition of organize is to “form into a whole.” Your objective here is to organize your online course into a logical, systematic format that is easy for the student to navigate and understand. To facilitate organization, many faculty use an introductory lesson (such as a Welcome or Introduction Module) that introduces the course, course components, schedule or flow, and organization. Also, a well-designed introductory lesson will acquaint the learner with the Webcourses@UCF tools used in the course. A comprehensive set of course protocols (such as Rules of the Road) should be the foundation of a well-organized online course.

Advance Organizers

Ausubel’s (1968) idea of an “advance organizer” is to relate what a student already knows to the new content to be learned and thus increase retention. Advance organizers should be at a higher level of abstraction, generality, and inclusiveness than the content to be presented. Although not technically advance organizers, some faculty may choose to provide overviews, outlines, statements of objectives, or pre-instructional questions, for similar reasons.

Model/Concept Maps

One way to organize a course is to provide a visual model or map of the different components to provide another learning style for your students. Each component may be linked to the appropriate section in the course. Also, examples or models may provide clarity. You may wish to provide the format for the assignment.

Online Course Quality Rubrics

Provided below are two rubrics that can be used for evaluating either module or online course quality design. You may references these rubrics as a course is being designed, or after it has been taught. These are the rubrics used to conduct Quality and High Quality online course reviews. For more details about course reviews, visit What is UCF’s Quality Initiative?


One of the implicit goals of any instructional setting is to provide students with the opportunity to interact with the course content, the instructor, and other students. An advantage of the online learning environment is the increased potential for students (individually or in groups) to make personal meaning from course content.

John Dewey introduced interaction to education in 1916. He referred to a form of internal interaction as the defining component of the educational process that occurs when the student transforms the inert information passed to them from another and constructs it into knowledge with personal application and value (Dewey, 1916).

Interaction examples include collaborative and cooperative learning groups.

Learning activities provide students with the opportunity to work together and interact. Collaborative learning can be effective in that it is a means for students “to think out the content that has been presented and to test it in exchanges with their peers” (Moore & Kearsley, 1996).

Social Networking

Social networking is a powerful method of increasing student interaction in an online course. UCF faculty member Amanda Groff uses Twitter in her online course to stay connected with students.

Learning Contracts

Professors frequently specify the work required to obtain each grade level (A, B, C). It is up to the student to determine the grade level they desire and the amount of work they are willing to do to earn the grade. Learning contracts may be informal where a student simply turns in the appropriate assignments for the desired grade or a written contract agreed to in advance. If a written contract is required, you need to provide a procedure to submit the contracts via Webcourses@UCF.

Adequate and Timely Feedback

Instructors need to provide two types of feedback: information feedback and acknowledgment feedback. Webcourses@UCF offers instructors the ability to return feedback in the Assignment tool, Quizzes, Discussions and via the Conversations tool. Ask yourself, “Is feedback commensurate with student performance?”


Effectively designed and implemented simulations have the potential to be transformational learning experiences for online learners. A simulation-based course can transform your field of study into an exciting and challenging experience for you and your students. Faculty may find off-the-shelf simulation software or DVDs they may wish to utilize.

Learner Choice

Faculty may provide students with a choice of assignments from which to choose. The student has control over their educational experience by deciding what to learn or to what extent to learn. All students in the course arrive at the same destination though choose different paths of study.

Problem Solving

When “higher-order” thinking is required to solve or understand complex problems, ideas, or concepts, the learner must apply these concepts to other problems.

Computer Mediated Communication (CMC)

Webcourses@UCF allows several forms of communication for your students. The Chat tool allow students to carry out synchronous conversations while the Discussions tool allows asynchronous communication.

The Web as a Content Provider

Do not overlook the Internet as a reference source for your course. Links may be provided throughout your course to appropriate sites. The Web adds a new and sometimes varied perspective to your content.

Multimedia Components

Professionally-produced audio, video, interactive media, and graphics bring many possible enhancements to an online course. Additionally, links may be added to give students access to existing online resources.

Online Video Simulations

Tutorials may be added to your course to assist the student in learning a specific aspect. For example, if use of a computer program is required in the course, a tutorial may be used to give them a jump start. A student tour of Webcourses@UCF is one way to prepare students for an online course.

Case Studies

If case studies are used as part of the learning methods in your course, they may be continued in online courses. You may set up a discussion for each case study which will allow students to communicate.


Student Self-Assessment

Student self-assessment is integral to monitoring progress in an online course. UCF faculty member Susan Ricci uses surveys in her online course for self-assessment.

Self-Assessment: Practice

With self-assessment, students can track their progress to ensure they have mastered the course information. Practice provides the students with the opportunity to master course materials before proceeding to the next level of instruction. For example, quizzes on Webcourses@UCF allow the student to get immediate feedback on their mastery of the content and to continue to the next level. If a student fails to master or understand the information, they can identify difficulties they are experiencing and either ask for help or continue in their practice of the materials.

Grade Assessment: Pre-test/Post-test

The importance of pre-tests is twofold. First, they determine the skills or knowledge the students may already possess about the course materials. Second, pre-testing serves as a means to measure the improvement in the skills or knowledge the students acquired from the presentation of the course materials.

Course Assessment: Formative

Throughout a course, an instructor should look at students’ test results, as well as the reactions and suggestions from students to determine what problems may exist in the duration of the course materials and if the course objectives are being met. The information provided by the students can then be implemented to revise the course materials throughout the delivery of the course materials. The Quizzes tool may be used to deliver evaluations.

Course Assessment: Summative

Upon completion of a course, summative evaluations should be utilized to measure if the course objectives were met. Post-tests and/or final exams can be used as a means of summative evaluations. Student reactions toward the overall course can also be determined from the Student Perception of Instruction (SPI) at the end of the term. The Quizzes tool may be used to deliver evaluations.