In 1989, I created basic computer literacy training material for US Army snipers and tank mechanics. The average students were GED graduates who often studied the field classroom shown above. Since the 90s, I’ve used Moodle  and Microsoft Education tools  while trying to ensure high levels of accessibility as the absolute measure of merit with whatever I create. Through the years, I’ve validated ten tips for effective distance education that I often offer to colleagues for their peer review as they attempt to adapt lectures, assignments, and activities for online learning. It is a lot of work so if have to “get on with it” you might consider a few ideas from my corner.
1. Know your limits.
Accept the reality you may not have the skills required to convince a pinhole camera that you have something worth learning. Holding the attention of a distant audience you cannot see involves a skill set more commonly found on an improv stage, not a lecturing platform.
2. Tick-off list please.
Offer students a clear road map of tasks they must do, material they must view, and suspenses they must meet. We use Moodle’s Virtual Learning Environment  and I’ve created shortened all assignments into bit.ly links. For example, students completing my Emerging Trends module know one of their continuous assessments is http://bit.ly/trendsca2001 and I cross-post the assessments in checklist form inside Microsoft Class Notebooks for every module I teach. If an activity requires close attention to browser-based activities, I show a list of URLs and a screenshot of the browser tabs that should be open to accomplish the activity in the shortest time. I collect those tabs in URLs for free via One-Tab.com.
3. Spark a group dynamic.
Online classes are not a simple substitute for face-to-face classroom conversations but you can engender a group dynamic into your online environment by incorporating two or more voices in your presentations. Conversational activities keep viewers and listeners engaged. The most-viewed educational courseware I’ve made involve two or more voices. You can get voices and audio fills by snipping content from Creative Commons video or audio clips. You can often slice small segments from top shelf podcasts while crediting the source in both your own voice and in the notes accompanying your education material. I’ve several years of audio files that lecturers are welcome to use and Andre Louis has gigabytes of sound files that could enhance presentations with audio bumpers.
4. Mic, camera, lights.
If you’re serious about creating effective online content, you will have a proper microphone, an HD camera, and be well-lighted. The fastest way to get someone to tune you out is if they have to strain to hear what you are saying. If your camera work is low resolution, you will shed viewers. And if you look like a shadowy figure because of poor lighting, your presentation appears suspicious and even abhorrent. If you don’t have a camera crew or instructional designer assistant, you should try to change your camera angle or video content at least every two minutes.
5. Embrace your unplanned moments.
They could be perfect accent points for your educational videos. So review your work and correct your video mistakes with text fly-outs. If you’re creating audio-only, just inject a sound effect like a record scratch or a bleep and correct your error.
6. Set up side room action.
Supplement your educational material with chat rooms (Discord is great), instant polls, and surveys such as those Socrative offers.
7. Ask your students for ideas.
They will often recommend a visual style or reveal where they spend most of their time online. If you visit those common watering holes you could improve the visual aesthetic used in your own learning materials.
8. Offer more than one place for uploads.
Sometimes I ask for Word Documents. Other assignments require both Word docs and imagery. Collages, photostreams, and short form videos can show sophisticated levels of understanding. Since most of my students are in their early 20s, I ask them to create four types of content (text, imagery, video, and audio) in response to the deep reading and reflection required to master subject material. We use Office365 for file uploads and Microsoft Class Notebooks for text inputs.
9. Watch and Listen Yourself.
Watch videos from online educators and learn instructional design techniques from them. Attend professional development sessions where you can hear others discuss shortcuts they’ve discovered in your line of work. These sessions are part of regularly scheduled activities on the main campus of the Limerick Institute of Technology. 
10. Follow innovators online.
Many use Twitter several times a day to stay abreast developments such as the current Corona Virus Lockdown. I have a few Twitter lists on my @topgold account. Here’s a short list of people I’ve read on the #flattenthecurve conversation. These voices influenced this blog post—thanks!
- Adam Brown @digitalzones
- Catherine Cronin @catherinecronin
- Christine Grant @christorical
- Paige Harden @kph3k
- Jennifer Juniper @PaisleyJaneCo
- Herman Mays @mermmays
- Goldbach, B.F. "Essential ingredients of our e-learning portal", November 15, 2003.
- Ibid, "Easy HiQ Audio Feedback with Class OneNote", July 31, 2017.
- Ibid, "Revamping Moodle", March 10, 2004.
- Ibid, "The Hunt Report Revisited", September 3, 2012,
[Bernie Goldbach teaches creative media for business on the Clonmel Digital Campus for the Limerick Institute of Technology.]