Preparing to Teach an Online Course at the Last Minute

Concurrent Session 7

Brief Abstract

What if you really only have 2 weeks to prepare your online course? We are confronted with this challenge more often than we’d like to admit. The challenge is identifying where to start and who to engage in a quick-start process. Join the conversation to share ideas and solutions.


Tracy Miller is the Assistant Director of the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center at Northern Illinois University. At NIU she is responsible for operations, quality assurance, and compliance process and reporting for the center.
Stephanie Richter is the Director of Faculty Development and Instructional Support for the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois. She consults with and provides professional development for faculty on integrating technology into teaching and supports the online teaching and learning initiatives at NIU. She holds a Master of Science in Education in Instructional Technology and a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics Education, and is currently pursuing a doctorate in Instructional Technology at Northern Illinois University. Research interests include online learning, online course design, social media and networking, faculty development, and faculty use of learning management systems.

Additional Authors

Jason Rhode, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Instructional Technology and Executive Director of Extended Learning at Northern Illinois University (NIU). In his role he serves as chief online learning officer, oversees NIU's Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center, and provides strategic leadership and long-range vision for development and delivery of academic credit-bearing online and off-campus courses and programs.

Extended Abstract

The focus of the discussion directly relates to quality teaching of online courses and faculty preparedness to do so. The field of online, blended, and distance education is expanding and the demand for online courses has increased. To meet the demand, institutions should establish scalable practices to increase faculty readiness to teach online. One practice, while not ideal, is to hire faculty last minute and fast-track their training and support to teach online. During the discussion, participants will contribute in two ways. First, by responding to a framework to Prioritize, Optimize, Personalize, and Strategize (POPS) an online course to identify the necessary essentials. Next, by utilizing a PACE Prioritization matrix (priority, action, consider, and eliminate) to determine which preparedness tasks should be completed first for the most impact.

In the real world, even the best plans change and online programs administrators are required, at times, to hire new instructors to teach a course at the last minute. In many cases, student demand requires additional sections of a course to be added or unexpected faculty absences leave vacancies which need to be filled quickly. It can be difficult to identify where to start and who to engage in a quick-start process.

Preparing faculty to teach online can be a challenge in the best of times. But what are the most important essentials that need to be considered when time is short? The problem is complicated by the diversity how online courses are developed. Many mature online programs have established courses, which have been developed and taught by experienced faculty. While, in some cases, faculty are asked to develop a course with little more than a syllabus. Many courses fall somewhere in between. Furthermore, each institution has unique processes for designing, developing, and delivering an online course. Course development and faculty readiness are two inter-related components critical to the successful delivery of any online course, and for expanding course offerings.

The conversation and activities will be led by staff from a Midwest, public university’s faculty development and instructional design center. The center is actively seeking collaborators to join a cohort to grow a resource inventory and determine how the POPS framework can be adapted at other institutions. However, this conversation is just the start to a larger discussion many higher education institutions face each semester.

What are others doing when faced with this challenge? Do other institutions have successful (or not so successful) policies to allow for new faculty to have early access to course? New hiring procedures are extremely important to follow in higher education. However, the hiring process can reduce the time available to bring new faculty up-to-speed. Where does the mentoring faculty fit into the support? How are they incentivized? The answers to these questions inform, not only how we react to last-minute hires, but overall online program planning.