As Fall deepens and foliage regales us with a wash of intense colors and earthy smells, we know the seasons are changing, ever moving through a cycle. Next year's Fall may resemble this years, but if you pay close attention it is different each year.
This brings me to best practices in online education. As educators we should be continually improving how we teach, mentor, and provide effective and engaging learning experiences. This doesn't just happen, it takes place by conscious action. Whether we seek this improvement or it is suggested or required, having a plan for improvement is critical to improving your online or face-to-face class.
One issue I see for instructors is that many review their course/s and think they have to make lots of changes all at once. While this is a noble undertaking, it is better to set forth a two or three year plan for improvement. You might start with the challenges are your students having on a regular basis and how you might improve their success at grasping and assimilating difficult concepts. Having a plan not only assists in improving your course/s it give you a path to follow. You can see where you began, how far you've gone, and where you should go next.
Plans are meant to be fluid and open to change. Perhaps you began in a certain direction and found once you were further into it that a component did not provide the expected results. This is the time to review your plan and see what may be changed to better assist instruction and learning. Having the expertise of an instructional designer can be of great value as someone skilled in designing learning environments and content can provide you with avenues not previously conceived. Many institutions have instructional design departments that can assist instructors with the creation of content. This is a great help to many faculty members who find they do not have the time or inclination to learn multiple software programs in order to create interactive content.
So whether you've been teaching for many years or are at the beginning of your career, remember to make a plan for improvement. As new research sheds light on best pedagogical practices and new media use, standing still is actually moving backwards. I encourage you to make a plan however modest to continually improve the way you teach and ensure more success on the part of your students.