Published Date

May 25, 2022

Resource Type

AHA Standards and Guidelines, For Departments, For the Classroom


Teaching Methods

AHA Topics

Academic Departmental Affairs, Professional Life, Teaching & Learning

Recommendations from the Ad Hoc Committee on Online Teaching

Introduction: Defining the Challenge

History education does not exist in a vacuum but is part of the larger trends shaping teaching and learning in universities and colleges nationwide. Over the past 20 years, these trends have shown a pronounced shift away from the physical classroom and toward online learning, even as overall student enrollment in postsecondary institutions has declined.1 As of 2016, nearly half of all undergraduates had taken at least one class online.2 Over the previous decade, the percentage of undergraduate students enrolled in fully online degree programs nearly tripled—from 3.8 percent in 2008 to 10.8 percent in 2016—while students pursuing fully online graduate degrees quadrupled, from 6.8 percent in 2008 to 27 percent in 2016.3

In 2019, the AHA established an Ad Hoc Committee on Online Teaching to survey existing models of online instruction and use its findings to inform a practical set of guidelines for course design, implementation, and assessment. The COVID-19 pandemic made the committee’s task more urgent, as online, hybrid, and mixed-delivery teaching methods multiplied nationwide out of both necessity and invention. Though the quick transition required in spring 2020 from in-person to remote courses was not stimulus for these guidelines, online and hybrid courses are likely to remain common practice at the undergraduate and graduate levels, raising pressing questions about instructional staffing and workloads, faculty training and support, pedagogy and course quality, learning assessment and intellectual property issues—including who owns course content and fair use of copyrighted materials. Given this rapidly evolving landscape, it is incumbent on history faculty to inform themselves and adapt to the demands of online education.

The guidelines that follow are organized into four sections. The first lays out a wide-ranging index of recommended practices for teaching history online—a checklist of what a successful online course requires—from building the syllabus, to seeking support from administrators, to engaging students and evaluating their work. The second section provides a broader background: what online teaching is, how it has evolved, and its current variants. The third section—also a checklist of sorts—sets out the principles, rules, and responsibilities of online instruction, moving from the federal guidelines for financial aid, to the obligations of scholars and their departments, to the role and future directives of the AHA. The guidelines conclude with a glossary of common terminology instructors might encounter in discussions of online learning.

I. Teaching History Online: Best Practices

II. Varieties of Online Teaching

III. Designations, Rules, Responsibilities



  1. Enrollment statistics show an overall decline of 6 percent from 2010 to 2017. National Center of Education Statistics, NCES online report, 2018, p. 207, accessed 5/25/22. []
  2. As of 2016, the most recent year for which data is available, 43.1 percent. See National Center of Education Statistics, NCES online report, 2018, pp. 209, 270, accessed 5/25/22. []
  3. National Center of Education Statistics, NCES online report, 2018, p. 270, accessed 5/25/22. []