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Foundations for Online Teaching

A guide for finding resources on online instructional design, tools, and technologies.

Getting Started

This guide will cover: 

  • Resources about online course design. 
  • Books and articles that describe best practices for online instruction.
  • Information on online teaching technology.
  • Tools for assessing your online course. 

Cultural and Political Context

Distance Learning

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) defines "distance education" as: 

Education that uses one or more technologies to deliver instruction to students who are separated from the instructor and to support regular and substantive interaction between the students and the instructor synchronously or asynchronously.

According to the Online Learning Consortium, in 2014, 3.9 percent of postsecondary students took at least one distance course (i.e. a course in which the content was delivered exclusively via the internet, DVD, or other communication technology).  

Figures from "Online Report Card: Tracking Online Education in the United States" (2016) by I. Elaine Allen and Jeff Seaman. 


Online Learning Organizations

Professional organizations for online instructors offer training opportunities, access to reports on the field, and information on best practices.  


The International Society for Technology in Education authors education technology standards, facilitates an online community of educators who use technology in their classrooms, publishes peer reviewed journals, and hosts an annual conference for educators to connect with new technologies and one another.  


Educause helps those who lead, manage, and use information technology to shape strategic IT decisions at every level within higher education. You can find a list of their upcoming events--which range from their annual conference, to networking sessions, to management boot camps--here.  


The Online Learning Consortium is a professional organization for online instructors.  It provides professional development, instruction, best practice publications, and guidance to educators, online learning professionals and organizations around the world.  For example, you can check our their blog, where online teachers share stories and techniques, here.  


The United States Distance Learning Association promotes research, development, and practice around distance learning at the K-12 and postsecondary levels.  They sponsor a National Distance Learning Week and circulate a distance education newsletter.  

The Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) is a professional association of educators and others whose activities are directed toward improving instruction through technology.  The AECT offers a number of journals and books online here.  Some resources are for members only, while others are open access.    

The WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET) was originally created in cooperation with the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, but now its members come from across the U.S. and Canada.  WCET's focus is on the practice, policy, & advocacy of technology enhanced learning in higher education, specifically.  They also conduct research on operation, instruction, and technology implementation in distance education.  


The American Distance Education Consortium draws membership from state universities and land grant colleges, and was designed to develop the promotion of high quality, economical distance education programs at these institutions.  They regularly offer webinars on instructional design, new developments in computing technologies, and grant funding for curriculum development.