Teaching a Pre-Designed Course

Concurrent Session 5
Streamed Session

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Brief Abstract

Pre-designed courses (PDCs, sometimes known as master, template, or canned courses), long the standard in for-profit institutions, are becoming more common in non-profit, private, and state institutions. In this workshop participants will discuss and develop methods for prompting faculty expertise, professionalism, and autonomy while teaching PDCs.


Catrina Mitchum is a Lecturer in the Department of English at the University of Arizona. She earned her PhD in Composition/Rhetoric and Digital Studies from Old Dominion University. In 2018, she was, collaboratively, awarded the CCCC Research Initiative Grant. Her research interests are in retention and course design of online writing classes. She has scholarly work published in The Journal of Teaching and Learning with Technology, MediaCommons and Enculturation. She teaches first year writing and professional and technical writing courses online.
Rochelle (Shelley) Rodrigo is the Senior Director of the Writing Program; Associate Professor in the Rhetoric, Composition, and the Teaching of English (RCTE); and Associate Writing Specialist (Continuing Status) in the Department of English at the University of Arizona. She researches how 'newer' technologies better facilitate communicative interactions, specifically teaching and learning. As well as co-authoring three editions of The Wadsworth/Cengage Guide to Research, Shelley also co-edited Rhetorically Rethinking Usability (Hampton Press). Her scholarly work has appeared in Computers and Composition, C&C Online, Technical Communication Quarterly, Teaching English in the Two-Year College, EDUCAUSE Quarterly, Journal of Interactive Technology & Pedagogy, Enculturation¸ as well as various edited collections. In 2021 she was elected Vice President (4-year term including President) of the National Council of Teachers of English and won the Arizona Technology in Education Association’s Ruth Catalano Friend of Technology Innovation Award, in 2018 she became an Adobe Education Leader, in 2014 she was awarded Old Dominion University’s annual Teaching with Technology Award, in 2012 the Digital Humanities High Powered Computing Fellowship, and, in 2010 she became a Google Certified Teacher/Innovator.

Extended Abstract

Pre-designed courses (PDCs, sometimes known as master, template, or canned courses), long the standard in for-profit institutions, are becoming more common in non-profit, private, and state institutions. How do faculty and administrators negotiate using PDCs, while acknowledging and promoting faculty expertise, professionalism, and autonomy?  The quality of online learning has always been suspect, so assessment has always been a part of the history of online teaching. Specifically, online course design assessment has been well studied across distance education scholars (Benigno & Trenton, 2008) as well as online scholars within specific disciplines, like Writing studies (Warnock, 2009; Miller-Cochran & Rodrigo, 2006; Morain & Swarts, 2011). This scholarship has resulted in articles, books, book chapters that focus on how to design online courses, how to assess those online courses, and has even resulted in assessment tools, like the Quality Matters rubric, for best practices in online course design.  This rubric is used as an industry standard in many institutions. However, many of these studies and tools assume that the courses being designed will be taught by the instructor designing them. Even those, Tobin, Mandernach, and Taylor (2015), that emphatically try to distinguish between course design and teaching behaviors when discussing online evaluation find it difficult to draw clear lines between them. However, the need for this distinction is critical in programs using PDCs. How do online program administrators distinguish evaluating course design from instructional behaviours while evaluating faculty teaching PDCs? How do online faculty demonstrate their critical and creative online instructional behaviors in PDCs when being evaluated by faculty and administrators who do not understand online teaching and learning? How do administrators require faculty to use PDCs while also respecting their expertise and professionalism (Penrose, 2012). This workshop will guide participants through one way we have begun to approach this problem, provide them with space to consider this question critically, and apply their responses to an actionable tool.



  • ​What are the explicit participant learning outcomes for the workshop?

    • Participants will be able to: 

      • Articulate distinctions between design and the delivery

      • Develop a list of delivery methods for designs that can’t be changed

      • Leave with a tool to be used for instructors of pre-designed courses to check their teaching behaviors

  • What types of collaboration or interactivity will occur during the workshop with the instructor-participants and within the participant-to-participant group themselves?​ Please outline time allotments for any presentation vs. interactivity (i.e., 15 minute presentation; 65 minute interactive workshop; 10 minute Q & A).

    • In this 90 minute workshop, we’ll first spend 15 minutes introducing the how and why we have elected to solve this problem with our “Teaching Behaviors Self-Check.” 

    • We’ll then have the attendees spend 65 minutes thinking about what it means to teach online and revising the tasks and behaviors that we have developed for instructors who are teaching courses they did not design. This 65 minutes will be organized using reflective writing, small group sharing, and application of the work done to the self-check.

    • The final 10 minutes of of the workshop will be used to large group share, take suggestions for the Self-Check, and Q&A.

  • How will workshop participants be able to apply the effective practices shared in the workshop at their home institution?

    • Participants will be given a link to the Self-Check and will consider how their home institution can adapt/adopt this tool for their own use.

  • Who do you envision as the primary audience types who would get the most out of this session and why do you believe they will benefit?

    • This workshop is intended for anyone that has a designing, teaching, or evaluating role in online courses, specifically in online courses that are pre-designed.

  • What activities, take-aways, and/or activities will your workshop participants engage in that make your workshop unique, innovative, and relevant to the OLC Innovate 2020 themes and track you have selected?

    • The take-away from this workshop will be a tool that participants can take to their home institution and begin to use immediately. The goal of the self-check is to build bridges between designers, instructors, and administrators in ways that allow instructors of pre-designed courses to still own the teaching they do in a course they didn’t design. We hope that this self-check helps to solve the problem of the tension between pre-designed courses and the instructors that teach them by giving the instructors agency within the classroom for the betterment of the students.

  • What materials are required for the presenters, and what materials are required of those in attendance? This must be clearly outlined within the proposal submission.

    • Participants will need

      •  something to write with (this could be pen/paper or digital)

      • A device comfortable enough to view a Google Sheet

    • Presenters will need a projector.