Teaching in the Cloud: 3 Ways to Support Online Course Development

Teaching in the Cloud
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You’ve got a great technology infrastructure. Your administration wants to offer more online courses to meet rising demand. But you are having trouble getting professors to sign up to develop and teach the courses. To get them on board, you will need to think like a teacher and give them the tools and support they need to move into online teaching.

Jennifer B. Bernstein, PhD, teaches online courses at both Trident Technical College and LeMoyne College. She thrives in the online realm now, but she was nervous when she first started. Here is what worked for her:

Great Training

Bernstein, who is also the founder of Get Yourself into College, learned a lot — and became comfortable using the online course system — through weekly optional training sessions at Trident. What worked for her was that “the focus was quite narrow for each session, and there was time for implementation.” Bernstein worked through the material presented, then used it immediately in the course she was developing so the skills she learned became real and stuck with her.

At LeMoyne, she says, instructors are required to take a complete training course before they offer any online courses. They are paid for taking the course.

Course Release

Previously, Bernstein worked with instructors in different disciplines to help them integrate writing in their curriculum. She met with a lot of resistance, as professors in non-writing-related disciplines had a hard time seeing where writing would fit into their sources and often were afraid they would spend all of their free time grading papers.

The college offered these instructors a course release so they could devote their energy to redesigning their courses to integrate writing. Bernstein collaborated with them to integrate writing in the way that would bring the best learning outcome for their students — and to find strategies for grading the written work.

Course releases are a cost to the university, but says Bernstein, they are essential “if your college wants to offer great online courses.”

On-Call Support

The most important thing, says Bernstein, is having a “point person who is there for you.” The support teams at her schools are able to help her work through any problems she encounters while preparing her courses. Because she has been teaching online courses for a while now, she feels comfortable handling some of her own tech support, even though she has a great team to rely on. But, she says, online teaching “is new for people, and a lot of people aren’t online-savvy.” Knowing that a tech support team is just a phone call away can be empowering — professors can focus on course development rather than worrying that a small technology glitch will throw them into a tailspin.

Bernstein loves online teaching now. How can you help your instructors learn to love teaching in the cloud?

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