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Uncommon Sense Teaching: Teaching Online

Deep Teaching Solutions via Coursera


In Uncommon Sense Teaching: TEACHING ONLINE we’d like to help you to move toward fresh approaches to online teaching that build on the latest insights from scientific research. We’ll use insights from movie-making—not to mention from odd visual tricks in Barb’s kitchen—to see how students learn, both independently and together. We all know, for example, that social learning is valuable in helping students grapple with tough concepts as well as in making learning more fun. But if you understand what is happening in the brain during social learning, you can also understand why certain approaches commonly used in online learning, such as discussion forums, can sometimes pose a challenge. As you will see, we can use insights from neuroscience not only to motivate our students, but to help them change their very identity.

Our course is designed for university professors, vocational instructors, K-12 teachers, coaches, business trainers, parents, and in fact, anyone who is trying to teach concepts or skills online. We're not just talking about traditional academic materials—if you’ve ever considered teaching a course on Udemy, putting up a video series on YouTube, or launching your own educational blog, this course is also for you. An essential and exciting point is that students can learn even BETTER online than they can in the traditional face-to-face classroom. That’s whether you’re teaching synchronously—that is, live, via a platform like Zoom; or you’re teaching asynchronously—that is, any time—by having videos and other teaching materials accessible to students whenever they want.

You can take this course independently from the other two "Uncommon Sense Teaching" courses in this specialization—some of the neuroscience- and cognitive-psychology-based insights we’ll mention here in simple ways are explored more deeply in those other courses. So feel free to take the other two courses in the specialization in conjunction with or after this course. If you’ve already taken the other two courses, you’ll find that this course reviews and extends the practical insights from neuroscience you’ve already received in unexpected new directions. And you’ll find even deeper insights we haven’t covered before.

In TEACHING ONLINE you'll be joining a trio of experienced online instructors who have taught millions in some of the world's most popular online courses. One of our deepest goals for this course is to help YOU to teach others to improve their ability to reach and teach students. We’ve loaded the animations and visuals we've developed for this course online in PowerPoints (licensed under Creative Commons) in the assets under the videos, as well as in the resources section. You can rework these PowerPoints as you wish to reteach this material to your colleagues and students. Your sharing and resharing of this material is one of the best things you can do to help us all move teaching and learning forward to a visionary future. YOU are the foundation—children, adults, and society as a whole can leap ahead because of your desire to learn and spread these new ideas!


  • Schemas, Motivation, and Teaching Online
    • A major challenge in teaching—especially teaching online—is how to motivate your students. This week, we’ll introduce the concept of schemas—those frameworks in long-term memory that help form our very identities. As we’ll see, increasing our motivation can involve changing our identities—a process that good online teaching can spur. What is good online teaching? It’s teaching that avoids “checkbox” approaches that seem to satisfy all the requirements, but in reality, produce poor online learning experiences for students. There are many paths past these challenges—dive into the details with us in this week’s videos!
  • Popcorn Time! Lessons from the Neuroscience of Movie Watching
    • Habits form a surprisingly important role in our online teaching. This means we can learn of simple practices for good online teaching—yet ignore them when it comes time to actually implement them. But as we explore this week, there are ways around this challenge. We will also explore how slightly different camera settings and angles, lighting, and above all, sound quality, can have a surprisingly beneficial effect on our students. Finally, we’ll take a plunge into what movies can tell us about how to teach effectively online. As we will discover, theoretical techniques that can work well in traditional classrooms don’t necessarily transfer to the online world!
  • Retrieval & Spaced Repetition in Online Learning
    • Today’s online learners have no time to waste. How can you ensure that students learn as deeply and well as possible, in minimal time? That’s the focus of this week’s videos. We’ll dive into specific popular applications that can enhance students’ ability to retain the material—and also help you see at a glance how well your students are understanding what you are teaching while you are teaching. Our octopus and flocks of birds will also be at hand as metaphors that can help us understand, in surprising ways, how key concepts come together in the brain. As we’ll see, online teaching can give us a great platform to encapsulate key concepts by turning them into tight events that are easier to retrieve.
  • Preparing Now and for the Future through Great Online Teaching
    • One of the great features of the online environment is that it allows you to use simple attentional tricks that are virtually impossible to do in real life. And your friendly moving image on the screen can provide for a social partnership that becomes very real—and very encouraging—for students. This can happen even when you have classes so large that you don’t have the ability to interact individually with your students. But, perhaps surprisingly, attention isn’t ALWAYS important—creativity thrives when attention wanders. There are specific tricks in the online environment to encourage this. Learning also thrives when students can interact with one another—not only because of the exchange of mental models and of schemas, but also due to interaction with familiar faces who share eye gaze. As you’ll see, this gives us important insights related to online discussion forums. Finally, we will learn how learning itself changes the brain in therapeutic, uplifting ways. This means online teaching can provide resilience for societies through good times and bad. All this and more in our final week of Teaching Online!

Taught by

Barbara Oakley, David Joyner and Dr. Terrence Sejnowski


4.9 rating, based on 14 Class Central reviews

Start your review of Uncommon Sense Teaching: Teaching Online

  • Hello, world! I've captured some of the key quotes and takeaways from completing this course that I found most helpful: "The more we learn, the easier it is to learn more. But this also means that in the beginning, when we know very little, learning...
  • A great class taught by a great team of teachers! The final one in the series --- is very informative for anyone intending to teach online. All three instructors are some of the best on the MOOC. This a must-take class for any teacher, as well as...
  • Zsuzsanna Kispál-Vitai
    I have taken all courses by Barbara Oakley. From Learning How To Learn to this one. All of them are great; they changed my life. I am a university - now- professor and these courses helped me to stay motivated, enjoy teaching, and see the world of education...
  • Anonymous
    Planning on teaching an online course and wanted some insights into the potential issues and opportunities that this kind of teaching offers. I'm glad I also purchased the book "Uncommon Sense Teaching" because it frequently helped me by giving more in-depth information on some of the definitions and other information in the online course. The course definitely encouraged me to create asynchronous content that would either work as standalone content or content to support a synchronous online class. Although I have been making online videos for various purposes over the years, this class definitely gave me ideas on how to improve my video content.
  • Antonio Di Felice
    All three instructors are a great source of inspiration. They are able to sapiently transfer knowledge on online teaching in a pleasant, never boring and fruitful way. They use the latest research discoveries in neuroscience to go deeper into students' brains and get them motivated and engaged even if they don't want to.
    I suggest this specialisation (three courses) to every teacher who is interested in improving their effectiveness in their teaching. Furthermore, this specialisation is a treasure trove of new pedagogical insights on how to be a better, enlightened, and organised teacher.
  • Anonymous
    The facilitators were engaging and the content was enlightening. I have been teaching online higher education biology classes for over 20 years and I have learned some new things to help my online students better learn the content while enjoy learning in general even more than my previous students.

    Thank you for providing the videos for free. At my point in teaching, I don’t need the certification and would have not participated in the course. So, thank you again for making the content available to help me grow professionally.
  • Anonymous
    I learned a lot from this course. I teach both online and in the classroom. The course provided me with theory, such as the roles of declarative and procedural learning, that will help in both. It also provided me many practical tips, such as the value of gesture, that will help in both. As always, Barb Oakley and Terry Sejnowski worked hard to make the course entertaining and to practice what they preach. The addition of David Joyner, from Georgia Tech's famous online program in computer science, was the cherry on top.
  • Anonymous
    Amazing course. Gave me insight into learning occurs and many things that can be done to increase learning rate. Greatly appreciate your sharing the information and coupling the learning experience with iDoRecall. Made it easier to review the material presented, takes notes, and reinforce the topics and details of what was presented.
  • Anonymous
    The Uncommon Sense specialization in addition to the course 'Learning How To Learn" are 'must take courses' for all would-be teachers!! They are exceptional in their content and in their presentation.
  • Pannel Chindalo
    This is good a course because it focuses on what helps students learn better and not on what other online courses practice. Valuable insights on delivery and motivating students.
  • Anonymous
    There are a lot of insights which are matched with practical advice as well as neuroscience to help improve online teaching and therefore the online learning experience.
  • Anonymous
    THE BEST course I have taken on this topic!!! Interesting, helpful, and inspiring. I feel priviledged to have taken it.
  • Anonymous
    An excellent course about teaching and teaching online. Make sure to take the other 2 courses on teaching practices.
  • Anonymous
    This is an excellent course. I have learned new ideas and discovered I was already using some of the techniques.

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