Core Principles

What can students expect from their online classes?

Below are six core principles with associated resources fundamental to online teaching. These principles aim to assist all course instructors at Dalhousie and King's to prepare, design, and deliver online teaching. 

Classes will vary greatly depending on the subject matter, the level of the class, and the individual teaching style of the course instructor.

Accessible and inclusive

Courses will strive to be universally accessible, using principles of Universal Design for Learning, where pedagogical methods are applied to respond to multiple ways of learning:

  • Instructors are striving to provide all students with equitable access to course content and assessments.
  • Courses should comply with the developing requirements set by the Nova Scotia Accessibility Act of 2017. 
  • Instructors should also consider ways to address any socio-cultural and economic consequences of online instruction for students in keeping with Dalhousie's equity, diversity and inclusion priorities.

Additional Resources
Online Quality Guidelines
Educator's Accessibility Toolkit
Universal Design for Learning on Campus
20 Tips for Teaching an Accessible Online Course


Most courses should be primarily asynchronous (prerecorded content) so that students can watch or listen at their own pace and on their own time. 

  • Synchronous (live) course components may be included as well, but course instructors should work to ensure that students in different time zones are not disadvantaged. 
  • Assessments should, whenever possible, provide flexibility by giving students options for how they can demonstrate what they have learned. This is also an effective strategy to increase inclusion and accessibility in online classes.

Additional Resources
How Flexible or Rigid is Your Online Course
Timing and Location in a Digital Environment


Courses should be designed to encourage student interaction and engagement, with each other and with the course instructor. Interaction may be synchronous (live) and/or asynchronous (through discussion boards or other means).

Additional Resources:
Interacting Online
The Human Element in Online Learning

Clear communication

Clear communication is especially important in an online environment. Courses should begin with an orientation/welcome module that will introduce the course and its components and should also include weekly announcements and a clear weekly calendar.

Additional Resources:
Orientation Module
Lights, Camera, Action! Using Video to Transition Your Lectures Online

Instructor presence

Course instructors can establish their presence asynchronously via email and synchronously via online office hours. Students should be encouraged to bring their questions and concerns about the course to the instructor, and to attend office hours for additional support on the assigned content.

Additional Resources:
Interaction and Presence
Helping Students Become Self-Directed Learners Online


Students will continue to have access to support and resources in the transition to online learning. Course-specific support will be provided by the instructors and teaching assistants. Students will also be supported in their research needs through Dal Libraries and with any technical concerns through the Help Desk.

Additional Resources
Learner Support
Student Supports and Resources
10 Teaching Strategies to Support Students During a Pandemic