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Top 5 Things That Make Your Online Course Impersonal

Best Practices in Online Learning

What-Makes-An-Online-Course-Impersonal When designing an online course, there is a temptation to substitute technological solutions for genuine interaction.

The best online instructors find a way to balance instructor presence WITH technological efficiency. Here are the top 5 mistakes that can make your online course impersonal and robotic.

Don’t be a robot!

​5.) No personalized introduction
One of the best ways to start off your online course is by writing a personal introduction for your students that will give them insight into who you are, why you are teaching the course, and what they can expect to learn. 

This can be through text and pictures or via a short video. 

Many learning management systems like Canvas or Blackboard have webcam recorders within their content editors, which makes this especially simple. A personalized introduction lets your students know, right away, that there is a human teaching the course.

4.) Recording and posting long lectures

Many online courses consist of recorded lectures identical to the kinds of lectures delivered in a face to face course. 

The traditional lecturing model is slowly losing favor among advocates of the flipped classroom model of teaching face-to-face courses, so it is especially important to avoid them in online courses. 

It is difficult for online students to maintain attention when viewing a video that lasts over 40 minutes. Instead, break up any recorded lectures into smaller chunks and intersperse them with activities such as discussions, mini-assignments, or quizzes.

3.) Isolating students from their classmates

Unless an online course is designed to be self-paced, there should be opportunities for your students to interact with one another.

You may accomplish this with an icebreaker activity at the beginning of the term, where you will ask your students to share information about themselves via a discussion.

Popular icebreakers include the “two truths and a lie” or asking your students to share some of their favorite pictures or write about their favorite book or film. Group projects and peer review assignments will also foster a sense of community among your online students.

2.) Over-reliance on publisher material

Textbook publishers provide a wealth of pre-made content, quizzes, and assignments that can be imported into your learning management system. 

While this is certainly convenient, relying too much on this material can crowd out your voice and make your students feel like their course is being taught by McGraw-Hill, Cengage, Wiley, etc. 

Try to be judicious in your use of these materials.

1.) Lack of individualized feedback

This is the big one.

If you assess your students exclusively via automatically graded tests and quizzes, which is easy to do in a learning management system, you are denying them a valuable part of their education. 

Instead of robo-grading, give your students assignments that require revision and feedback so that they leave the course feeling a sense of accomplishment. 

Feedback can occur in many different ways, such as:

  • Detailed response to a discussion post that you find merits attention
  • Using peer-reviewed paper assignments coupled with your own suggestions
  • Online “office hours” via web conference or messaging


By avoiding these pitfalls, your online courses will have a greater impact​ and your students will be more engaged. By humanizing your online course, you are delivering value to your students and making meaningful connections.​


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