NIU’s President John Peters, in his 2011 State of the University Address, mentioned that “We must pursue the working group recommendations to add up to 42 additional online degree programs and certificates – prioritized according to student demand.” Meeting President Peters and Vision 2020 goals to offer more online courses and online degree programs to give NIU a competitive edge will require training more faculty members quickly on online teaching and learning so that academic departments are able to schedule more course sections online.
Introducing “PTO” – Preparing to Teaching Online
Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center, with the help of funding provided by a Venture Grant from the Northern Illinois University Foundation, will soon introduce self-paced training on online teaching at NIU. This project, known as “Preparing to Teach Online” (PTO), will result in a set of interactive learning modules focused on online teaching that participants can use to learn at their own pace and schedule. These modules are being designed and developed by Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center staff and will be based on the current online teaching training offered by the Center, and will be similar to training programs on online teaching offered by other providers such as Sloan-C and the Illinois Online Network (ION). The modules will eventually be the first of a 3-phase approach to preparing faculty to teach online. The other phases will include attending a number of hands-on workshops to become proficient with the technology tools available and receive follow-up consultations.
Benefits of the Self-Paced Model
PTO will be offered in a self-paced mode, allowing more flexibility for participants. Those who cannot attend face-to-face workshops for a variety of reasons including schedule conflicts or teaching off-campus will be able to benefit from introductory information provided by these modules and can get started quickly to accelerate their learning. PTO will also accommodate those with differing teaching and technology expertise so that they can pace their learning. This first phase will help faculty to get a glimpse of what is involved in teaching online and plan their online teaching preparation accordingly. The modules will require participants to complete a design document similar to a lesson planning template that will assist them in developing a quality online course. They can then use this design document to receive follow-up assistance on course-specific needs from the staff at Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center.
“Preparing to Teach Online” will consist of the following 6 core topics, all of which must be completed in sequence:
- Overview of Online Teaching and Learning
- Models of Online Course Delivery
- Designing an Online Course
- Encouraging Communication in Online Courses
- Technology Tools for Online Teaching
- Assessing Student Learning Online
Additionally, participants will have a choice of electives from which to choose including topics like social networking, mobile learning, advanced content and media, and web conferencing.
Features of “Preparing to Teach Online”
These interactive modules will be structured as a self-paced online course in Blackboard with module presentations specifically optimized for desktop and mobile devices for those on the go. Other components like supplementary readings, self-check quizzes, and discussion boards will accompany each module topic and the completion of these activities will automatically unlock new topics in the course. As mentioned earlier, the main culminating assessment for this self-paced course will be a design document which will be completed in segments throughout the modules or at the very end. Participants can then use this completed document to move forward in developing an online course or meet with the staff at the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center to seek additional help as necessary.
The self-paced “Preparing to Teach Online” course is planned for a Spring 2013 launch, in which the first cohort of participants can begin. This cohort will hopefully be the first of many successful cohorts, as this entire project will certainly result in significant benefits to NIU, a few of which are listed below:
- More faculty members will be quickly introduced to online teaching rather.
- The self-paced learning modules will help faculty understand the time, effort and planning necessary to develop and deliver courses online compared to face-to-face delivery, and be better prepared.
- Academic departments will be able to recommend the self-paced learning modules to faculty members who are scheduled to teach online.
- Academic support units such as Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center with limited resources will be able to use their resources more efficiently by focusing on course-specific online teaching needs of faculty and help them meet their needs better.
- The modules can be made available for a fee for those at other institutions and promote NIU, and also possibly generate funds to promote program and training sustainability as it is one of the goals of the Venture Grant.
Stay tuned for more updates in Spring 2013 regarding the status of “Preparing to Teach Online.” We envision this project to be a welcome addition to online teaching preparation at NIU and elsewhere, and we thank the NIU Foundation for its support of this effort.