Wednesday, 15 February 2017 20:55

Peer Observation of Online Instructors

Written by Erin Howard and Trudi Mason

What if it’s your year for peer observation and you are only teaching online?  Good news!  The Educational Enhancement Team at Lethbridge College has recently developed best practices for peer observation of online courses.  Many instructors are teaching online and would like feedback on their delivery of these online courses.  The process for peer observation of online courses is similar to the face to face model with a few tweaks. 

Take a look at the following insights and recommendations to help you complete an online peer observation.

Pre-Observation Meeting

Much like the face to face version, the first step in observing an online course is to meet with the delivering instructor to discuss their goals.  As an observer, it can be daunting to look through an online course; you might be unsure of what you’re looking for or what areas you should focus on. Discussing the instructor’s goals will help you focus on the areas they are trying to monitor or improve. 


Check multiple sources to see the whole picture.  It may be important to view several places in the course to complete an online observation. For example, to observe contact between instructors and students, you may want to check announcements, discussion boards, inbox items, or gradebook comments. Be sure to ask the instructor for permission to access these areas during the pre-observation meeting. Take note of both instructor and student interaction, and ask for clarification when needed. 


When reporting back on your observation, organize it by focusing on the key areas the instructor has identified. Take care that your notes are truly observations, and not judgements.  Your teaching and learning center should be able to assist you with this.  It is best that before you become an observer you understand the best practices. This will allow you to conduct observations in a positive, constructive, non-threatening manner. 
To help you organize your observations, the Peer Observation of Online Courses template is a great tool to use to complete an observation report. 

Course Analytics

Course and student analytics are an excellent way to collect quantitative data about an online course. Looking at analytics gives an objective view of aspects of an online course such as frequency of communication, time spent in a course, or student achievement. All learning management systems worth their weight should have some way for you to view course analytics. Depending on your level of access you may need to go through the course with the instructor during the observation. 

Provide helpful resources

Concluding an online peer observation with some follow up resources is helpful and welcomed. As educators, we often know where to find resources such as articles, blogs, apps, and other helpful tools.  Thoughtful resources can assist an online instructor’s progress on their goals as well as areas highlighted in the observation. 

Encourage instructors to seek student feedback

Student feedback and/or surveys are a part of the peer observation process. Encourage the instructor to seek feedback in the manner most relative to their practice and needs. This will aid them in making evidence-based decisions about their online instruction to continue growing their practice. 

At Lethbridge College, instructors go through Peer Observation every three years. The process is a positive way to continue to reflect upon and grow your practice.  To learn more about developing a reflective practice, check out our previous article: Fostering a Reflective Practice. If you have any questions about peer observation, please contact Trudi Mason, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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