Threshold concepts about online teaching

A literature review conducted by the research team identified threshold concepts about online teaching. Research data for the project was collected using the OTSEI (Online Teaching Self-Efficacy Inventory) questionnaire. A reflective journal was also used to gather data from academic staff and professional development staff from the three participating institutions (Avondale Higher Education, the Australian Catholic University and Texas A&M University).

Analysis of the data resulted in the identification of a set of threshold concepts about online teaching. These concepts were confirmed as threshold concepts by two rounds of questionnaires, using the Delphi technique. Members of an Expert Reference Group (ERG) were consulted to finalise this set of threshold concepts about online teaching. The ERG was comprised of national and international experts with extensive knowledge about professional development, threshold concepts and online pedagogy (consider inserting a link to the ERG members).

At the 6th Biennial Threshold Concepts Conference at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, a comprehensive account of the processes adopted to identify these threshold concepts about online teaching was presented. This is the focus of a refereed chapter by the research team submitted for review in December 2016. A follow-up publication to the conference is available at: It is anticipated that the chapter entitled “At the troublesome edge of recognising thresholds concepts of online teachers: A proposed learning threshold identification methodology” will be published in the book, Threshold concepts at the edge. The book, edited by Brad Wuetherick, Anne-Marie Ryan, Julie Timmermans and Ray Land, is planned for publication in 2017 by Sense Publishers).

Threshold concepts about online teaching
CategoryThreshold concepts about online teaching
Preparation and course design (including curriculum design, instructional design, planning, teacher and course preparation)1An online course must be designed to have specific mechanisms to communicate, monitor and give feedback to groups of students as well as individual students.
2Online course design is critical to the success of online teaching and learning.
3Online course design needs alignment between learning activities, assessment tasks and feedback mechanisms to ensure student engagement.
4Preparation for designing and planning online teaching may take longer than preparation for on-campus teaching.
Online presence (including teaching presence, social presence and cognitive presence)5Students can learn without the teacher being present.
6Online presence is different from on-campus presence.
7Online presence, while elusive, must be pursued.
8Students need to be encouraged to be more self-regulated in an online course than in an on-campus course.
9Online presence requires interactive elements.
Interaction and relationships (including teacher-learner, learner-learner, and learner-content interaction and relationships)10Online learning contexts require a new mode of interaction between facilitators, students and resources.
11Online teaching requires facilitating interaction, not only presenting content.
12Synchronous communication methods in online learning contexts, while sometimes challenging to facilitate, have many learning benefits.

The features of threshold concepts have been defined elsewhere by Land and Meyer (Land & Meyer, 2010; Meyer & Land, 2003, 2005, 2006b). To assist with the interpretation of the above collection of threshold concepts about online teaching that were identified during this project, these features of threshold concepts were redefined in terms of online teaching, as follows.


Land, R., & Meyer, J. H. F. (2010). Threshold concepts and troublesome: Dynamics of assessment. In R. Land, J. H. F. Meyer, & C. Baillie (Eds.), Threshold concepts and transformational learning (pp. 61-79). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

Meyer, J. H. F., & Land, R. (2003). Threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge: Linkages to ways of thinking and practising within the disciplines Enhancing Teaching-Learning Environments in Undergraduate Courses Project, Occasional Paper 4 (pp. 1-12). Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh.

Meyer, J. H. F., & Land, R. (2005). Threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge (2): Epistemological considerations and a conceptual framework for teaching and learning. Higher Education, 49(3), 373–388.

Meyer, J. H. F., & Land, R. (2006). Overcoming barriers to student understanding: Threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge. New York: Routledge.