Special Considerations for Peer Observations of Online Courses

Please note that these guidelines apply to the observation of intentionally planned and designed online courses.  It is recommended that caution be used for peer observations/reviews of courses taught in an emergency remote teaching format (e.g., in response to COVID-19), and that such observations NOT be used for summative evaluation purposes.  For guidance on elements to consider when shifting to temporary remote instruction, see the Quality Matters Emergency Remote Instruction Checklist.

Best Practices for Observing Online Courses

As with all peer observations of teaching, a primary goal should be to provide the instructor with another perspective to consider in reflecting upon his/her teaching.  It is recommended that a formative approach, focused on informing instructional practices and supporting the growth of the instructor, be used.

The basic steps of conducting a peer observation still apply when observing an online course (see the steps outlined in the Best Practices for Conducting Peer Observations of Teaching section).  It is recommended that the process include pre- and post-observation meetings and that the same basic components are included in the report/documentation of the observation.

While exploring the online course, distinguish between making observations, interpretations, and evaluations.  Focus on making observations to share with the instructor and discuss in the post-observation meeting.  If the purpose of the course review is summative (evaluative), the evaluative feedback included in the final documentation should be based on the observations and additional insights gathered from the instructor in the pre- and post-observation meetings.

Criteria and Resources for Observing Online Courses

While many of the same criteria relevant for observations of face-to-face courses will also apply to the observation of online courses, it may be necessary to consider other elements specific to the online environment.

The resources listed below provide a range of criteria and rubrics that may be helpful in peer observations of online courses.  The observer and the faculty member whose course is being observed are encouraged to agree upon a set of criteria that will guide the observation.