Scaling Online Classes – How to Build Master Course Templates and a Network of Qualified Adjuncts

Concurrent Session 4

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Demand for online classes is far exceeding supply at Southeast Missouri State University. To address this, a holistic plan was developed that can scale online courses.  This includes the development of master course templates, an adjunct recruitment pool, training, and an adjunct support system.


In Dennis's role as Online Instructional Coordinator at Southeast Missouri State University, he works on hiring online adjunct faculty to teach for Southeast Missouri State University; he also works with online adjunct orientation and training as well. Dennis loves having the ability to improve education for students. He earned his B.S. in Animal Science & Agribusiness here at Southeast Missouri State in 2013, and has just recently earned a M.S. in Agricultural Education and a Graduate Certificate in Agricultural Leadership.

Extended Abstract

Demand for online classes is far exceeding supply at Southeast Missouri State University. To address this, a holistic plan was developed that can scale online courses.  This includes the development of master course templates, an adjunct recruitment pool, training, and an adjunct support system. 

The holistic plan to not only scale student enrollment, but to also recruit and train online adjuncts consist of three major components. The first is the Master Template Studio (MTS) program, which is the program used to develop master template courses. The next component is the adjunct pool. The adjunct pool is a digital form that interested potential adjuncts can submit their information to an open call, or specific part-time adjunct openings. The last component is the training and support provided for online adjuncts. 

At Southeast Missouri State University, a program has been developed that supports full-time faculty in creating master course templates for high-need online courses and programs. Master template courses provide high-quality design and content for online courses, so they can be taught by both adjunct and full-time faculty, as needed. Master template courses provide a consistent look-and-feel across online programs and provide flexibility for departments to open new online sections with greater agility and assurance of quality.

The Master Template Studio (MTS) program aims to support growth in online student enrollments by providing a high-quality way to scale online course offerings. This is accomplished by engaging faculty in the design of master template courses for certain online programs. As well as developing a handbook for all master template courses for the future instructors to reference. Lastly, the MTS program ensures continuous quality improvement (CQI) through a formal review process of master template courses for structure and content relevance.

The different areas of emphasis placed on creating master template courses for the MTS program are: (1) structure/layout in the Learning Management System (LMS), (2) course content from full-time-faculty, (3) the development of a course specific handbook, and (4) a focus on continuous quality improvement. The full-time-faculty creating the master template courses work on a specific course for which they are considered the subject matter expert. Major contribution by faculty include, but are not limited to: helping determine best layout of content in the LMS, creating the syllabi for the course, creating the course schedule, deciding on required reading for the course, developing content as well as assignments/assessments, and providing input on the course handbook.

Faculty spend between 75 – 100 hours working through the MTS program to develop a signal master template course. Faculty start by taking a 20-hour Online Primer Course. Some faculty who teach and design courses online may have never had an experience of being an online student. By having faculty take the Online Primer Course they can experience what it is like to be a student in an online classroom while learning about such topics as copyright, open educational resources (OER’s), design models, and about online education.

After faculty complete the Online Primer Course they attend a 1-day face-to-face workshop where the whole day is spent preparing a storyboard for the master template course they are designing. The storyboard acts as their roadmap for the 8-week design phase of the MTS program. Once the faculty have designed their master template course over the 8-week design phase, then their completed course will go through a peer review before it can complete the MTS process and be considered usable as a master template course.

Adjuncts are hired on an as need basis using a recruiting tool where interested applicants can submit their information using an online form. Once a need is identified by an academic department the pool of potential adjuncts can be used to locate an instructor. This process allows for the university to create a pool of potential online adjuncts that can be used to quickly meet student demand for a course. Potential applicants will have provided all the necessary information when first submitting their information to the adjunct pool. This allows the university to quickly identify a candidate and expedite the hiring process because all the required information has been submitted.

Once an online adjunct is hired then they will complete a training and orientation that will teach them how to use the universities learning management system, and orient them to the online classroom. Once the adjunct begins teaching support services are available such as check in’s, a social media page, and access to faculty development opportunities for continuous support and advancement. 

In this discover session we will share the Master Template Studio process including the online primer course, workshop agenda, design and review process and template manual.  Additionally, we’ll tour the adjunct website including recruitment and training processes. Attendees will also get the chance to participate in hands on examples of varying components of what faculty, and adjuncts get to experience through the programs. Lastly, we will illustrate to all attendees how the Master Template Studio program, adjunct recruitment, and adjunct training merge to form one holistic plan of action. 

The major outcome attendees will gain is an understanding of how to grow and scale online courses in a research-informed way.  Attendees will also benefit from being able to explore these materials hands on and to dialogue on matters specifics to their institution’s organization and culture.