eCoaching Tip 74 Lecturing without Lecturing — Shaping Learning with Your Voice and Expert Knowledge

January 26, 2010 (Checked April 6 2022)

eCoaching Tip 74  Lecturing without Lecturing — Shaping Learning with Your Voice and Expert Knowledge

“But how will I lecture?  How will I convey the core concepts that my students need to learn?  How will I share my intellectual treasures, the fruits of my years of experience?

Some version of these questions is a common faculty response when they are asked to teach online for the first time.  It is a bit of a shock to go online. You go from being the center of attention in front of a classroom to the role of a mentor and coach.  In this role, you shape your students’ learning with your voice in two ways: first, using smaller “concept chunks” in text, audio or video formats and secondly, using your responses and posts, weekly summaries and assignment feedback.

But How Will I Convey Key Concepts?

As you develop experience in the online teaching space, your desire to lecture — in the traditional sense of a 50-minute event with your students, will decrease. You will likely begin to see the traditional lecture in a new light, as only one of many possible tools for conveying information and sharing experience.

Here are a few online teaching strategies that you can use to convey, reinforce, and reprise those core concepts that your learners need to know and experience.  Using these strategies you can often do more than you did with lectures. These strategies can help learners acquire information, link information to existing knowledge, learn to think critically, and enjoy probing the mysteries of knowledge disciplines.

Direct Teaching Presence Resources During Course Preparation

Recall that one component of teaching presence (Garrison, Anderson & Archer, 2000; Garrison & Vaughan, 2008) is the set of materials developed before a course begins. These are the materials that faculty design and develop to guide the learning experiences of the expected, but not yet particular, students in the course.

Here are some of the teaching materials that you can create from your existing lectures by repackaging and restructuring core ideas/concepts.  Most traditional lectures have two to four topics per session.  Think in terms of segmenting these topics into separate resources.

  • Mini-lectures

Mini lectures are short and can be text, or some version of audio/video, such as a presentation, podcast or YouTube video.  Mini-lectures are often no more than about four to eight minutes long (600 to 1200 words).  Text is often the preferred format as you are getting started, although audio and video are becomingly increasingly common.

What purpose do mini-lectures serve and how do they aid in the learning process?  Mini-lectures are used to introduce and provide context information on readings and assignments.  They are used to provide background information and suggest ways these ideas relate to other ideas and to advance community thinking.  They are similar to the kinds of “teacher talk” that faculty often do at the beginning of a unit or the weaving of multiple threads of knowledge. They are often used to share a faculty member’s particular rationale, story, experience, or perspective on topics.  They do not take the place of textbook readings nor should they attempt to capture all of the points in a 50-minute lecture.  Mini-lectures can be organized in Blackboard under a module area that also includes weekly guides and/or assignments such as “Course Documents.

  • Weekly Guides

Weekly guides summarize the requirements, activities, and assignments for the week.  They can be quite brief and useful as a list of action learning requirements for your learners and for you.  Weekly guides can also be more expansive and serve as a place where you provide the context for the readings and activities for this week, such as; “Here are some of the key ideas, debates, positions to watch for, etc.”

Do take the time to develop a weekly guide for your learners.  These weekly guides can be text, audio or audio/video combined. In fact, it can be helpful to provide key pieces in more than one format, but that can evolve over time.

  • Concept Introductions

Concept introductions are actually a subset of mini-lectures.  These might be PowerPoint presentations with audio narration which you may use normally for sharing frameworks, organizing principles, new applications, and assignment directions that you like to ‘talk learners through.’  A key difference between a concept introduction and a classroom lecture is the length of the lecture and your expectation as to what they will learn from it and take away and apply from these shorter lectures.

Creating these direct teaching presence resources is a critical component of effective online courses. Learners will be anxious and concerned without these direct resources and communications.  They want and need to know what they are to learn, and look to you, ‘their content expert’ to provide answers.  They want to ‘hear’ your voice, whether it is text, audio or video.

Group Teaching Presence Strategies and Resources During Delivery

Another component of the teaching presence model is the resources that you create to respond to and adapt a course to the particular and specific groupof students in your course. This is the teaching direction that you use to shape the learning, the experiences of the students based on the productive reflections and postings of the students.  This is part of the interaction and relationship building of teaching and learning.  Here are some strategies that you can use to embed, reinforce and encourage thinking with the course concepts.

  • Discussion Posting Responses

During course preparation you create a set of discussion catalysts for the discussion forums. As students are responding to these questions they are creating a body of learner responses to the content that is specific to their own community of learners. This body of responses gives insight into each learner’s current thinking and knowledge, which can stimulate your particular responses and comments.

  • Weekly Discussion Wraps

Discussion wraps at the end of each week are summaries of the perspectives, insights and related queries created by the learner responses.  Discussion wrapping is a tool that you can use to bring the threads and ideas of the discussion back to a coherent set.  Discussion wraps can be described as unit summaries that you might do in a face-to-face class before moving on to the next unit.  They are unique in that they are specifically tailored to the thoughts and ideas presented by the students.

Discussion summaries can be the way that you use to bridge and relate topics.  Without discussion wraps, discussions often just ‘dribble out” with no impact.  More about discussion wraps are in Ecoaching Tip #25 E-Coaching Tip 25: Discussion Wraps — A Useful “Cognitive Pattern” or “Collection of Discrete Thought Threads?”

For creating efficiencies over time, discussion wraps can be developed as templates that integrate specific student responses. Discussion summaries are useful for guiding and shaping learners ideas for the next set of assignments and experiences.

  • Q & A Review Sessions in the Live Classroom — or a Q & A Forum

Live Classroom tools, such as Wimba, are synchronous, online meeting places that provide for just-in-time synchronous discussions, presentations, and question and answer sessions.  Popular versions of this space include question and answer sessions, possibly discussing a set of innovative approaches to problems, working through scientific or mathematical processes, or project briefings or debriefings.  As students bring questions, their state of conceptual knowledge often becomes clear and this can be a place and time for reinforcing key concepts and understandings.

Individual Teaching Presence Strategies During Course Delivery

A third component of the teaching presence model is the content that faculty create to adapt a course to specific individuals in a course.  It is the feedback that faculty write or speak to individual students as they complete assignments such as discussion postings, essays, blogs, and project sections.

  • Discussion Posting Responses

The discussion posts of learners sometimes merit very individual feedback, and can be either private or public.  If possible, public feedback is preferred.  Public feedback is similar to answering a student’s question in class.  All students hear a faculty’s voice and direction to one student is often helpful to other learners as well.  It is unique, however, in that it responds to a student’s personal cognitive thinking at that time.

  • Assignment Feedback

Giving feedback to students on assignments is another opportunity of conveying information and shaping the knowledge base of individuals as well as groups and teams of students.  A student’s productive output reveals the structure and content of their unique knowledge base.  It is during postings, writings, and other communications that they reveal their innovative ideas, understandings and also their possible inaccurate understandings.  Providing feedback can reinforce, motivate, correct, and encourage.

Interesting Example of Innovative Project Strategies

A recent article by E. Lynd-Balta of St. John Fisher College in Rochester, NY describes her experiences in teaching neuroscience to undergraduates.  While her course is a campus course, her strategies would work very well in the online environment.  Her innovations that you might enjoy reading about include (1) the use of a non-scientificliterary work — Tuesdays with Morrie:  An Old Man, A Young Man and Life’s Greatest Lessonby Mitch Albom (1997) to introduce the study of a scientific topic, and (2) the use of a customized approach to project work.  In place of an exam, students all focused on the same disease, ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) and were directed to create a similar product, an informational pamphlet.  Learners customized their project by changing audience and sponsoring organization and particular learner purpose. Her article in CBE Life Sciences Education, includes examples of learning goals and rubrics for assessment that you may find of interest.


Lynd-Balta, E. (2006). Using literature and innovative assessments to ignite interest and cultivate critical thinking skills in an undergraduate neuroscience course. CBE Life Sciences Education.5, 167–174.

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text based environment. Computer conferencing in higher education. Internet inHigher Education, 2(2), 87–105. Retrieved April 7, 2009, from

Garrison, D. R., & Vaughan, N. D. (2008). Blended learning in higher education: framework, principles, and guidelines. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Note: These E-coaching tips were initially developed for faculty in the School of Leadership & Professional Advancement at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. This library of tips has been organized and updated through 2021  in the second edition of the  book, The Online Teaching Survival Guide: Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips coauthored with Rita Marie Conrad. Judith can be reached judith followed by

Copyright, Judith V. Boettcher