Principles of Effective Online Teaching

Great Plains IDEA values and strives to provide the highest quality in distance education. These guiding principles are meant to assist Great Plains IDEA faculty in developing exceptional pedagogy and curriculum for online courses. 
Adopted by the Human Sciences Board of Directors on October 25, 2016.

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Principle 1: Student-Faculty Contact

Clear guidelines and policies regarding communication, regular communication with students throughout the course, and using proactive course management strategies enhances student-faculty interaction. 

Two instructors discuss the importance of interaction. 

Principle 2: Cooperation Among Students

Student engagement in the course, and with each other, is increased when instructors design coursework that facilitates cooperative “meaning-making” among students. 

One instructor explains how he provides opportunities for students to learn from each other.

Principle 3: Active Learning

Student-to-student sharing of completed coursework provides motivation and encourages peer discussion. 

One instructor explains how project-based learning helps students learn from each other.

Principle 4: Prompt and Meaningful Feedback

Students benefit when instructors provide two types of feedback: information feedback and acknowledgment feedback.

Principle 5: Deadlines and Consistent Patterns of Course Activities

Clear deadlines and consistent patterns of course activities help students manage busy schedules and encourage regular communication.

Principle 6: High Expectations

High expectations are established through challenging assignments, discussions, and examples of good work. 

Great Plains IDEA provides a community of professionals.

Principle 7: Diverse Talents and Ways of Learning

Making courses and documents accessible, allowing students to choose project format and project topics, and integrating student-led discussions helps incorporate diverse views into online courses and accommodates all students. 

Hear a student explain how the curriculum was flexible, allowing her to choose research topics she was passionate about.

Principle 8: Course Quality

Online courses are best when instructors continually monitor and improve the quality of their online courses. 

Learn about curriculum connected to the industry.


The Advisory Board Company. (2010). Engaging faculty in online education: Rightsizing incentives and optimizing support. Washington, DC. 91-92. 

Magna Publications. (n.d.). 10 principles of effective online teaching: Best practices in distance education.  Distance Education Report. Madison, WI

When I began teaching in 2002 with the youth development program, I didn't have a clue about online teaching, nor did I understand how powerful quality online education could be.  It has been through GP IDEA workshops and resources that I have gained teaching skills and competencies.  However, what motivates me each and every semester is the relationships with faculty, staff, and GP IDEA leaders who appreciate the power of online education.  It's those GP IDEA relationships that have given me the confidence to advocate for the online student and for access to quality education before online teaching was fashionable.  GP IDEA continues to be my go-to place for the best that online education has to offer for students, for faculty, and for me.
Elaine Johannes, Youth Development Program, Kansas State University