Developing an Internal Online Teaching Training and Certification Model

Concurrent Session 4
Streamed Session

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Brief Abstract

Realizing that current online teaching certifications were insufficient about skills/knowledge essential for our population, our office developed one that took into account pedagogical, technological, and equitable practices. Come hear about our process and the steps you can take to launch your own.


I have been in the Instructional Technology field for 10 years, focusing online course design and faculty collaboration. I am currently an Instructional Technologist and Designer at the Queens College Center for Teaching and Learning, I received my MA from TC, Columbia University in their Instructional Technology, Media and Design program after focusing on the various macro and micro factors that are essential to successful online course design, as well as a mechanism for collaborative faculty development. This work is essential to my work with collaborators. It was remarkably timely in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, in which this framework was utilized in part as we moved hundreds of faculty online. I am a firm believer that online learning and education must be designed with the modality in mind- one cannot just copy and paste in-person materials into an online frame. We must take into account the limitations and affordances of a modality, and how that works in concert with the human element- prior knowledge, cognitive load and the like. I also believe that for design to be successful-one must be flexible with the mechanisms. For today’s learning to be successful, we must analyze and utilize the most effective learning framework, modality, and methodology. Each circumstance should take into account the goals, prior knowledge, motivation, affordances and limitations of the modality, and learning framework. We must adapt and change as we collaborate.

Extended Abstract

External online teaching certificate organizations have long been considered one of the only ways of confirming online teaching quality. However, for many reasons these programs are not as impactful as we want them to be.  Quality Matters(QM) for example, has faced increased criticism. These trainings tend to be extremely broad, which means their utility to non-traditional institutions is more limited. Further, the cost of the Quality Matters programs is often prohibitive, meaning it is out of reach for many publicly funded institutions. 

As a result of both of these problems, Our institution built an alternative mechanism of assessment and certification specifically geared towards our faculty population and ultimate student audience. Our university is a non-traditional campus in several ways. The student population contains an extremely high percentage of first generation college students; students who do not have the same family resources and guidance that many other college students do in the same situation. The vast majority of our students are commuters, many of whom live with their family. These considerations mean classroom practices which may be normalized in other online/remote institutions can be actively harmful, even to the point of causing them to fail the class. 

For example, a common practice in online courses is such as requiring synchronous course participation and cameras to be on. While students from all over the country have reported the practice to be unnerving, since many of our students share internet bandwidth and physical space with others, it directly impedes their ability to participate in the course at all.

.It became clear that we needed a training and certification process that didn’t just cover general online best practices and pedagogy. We needed to develop one that took into account the nuances and multifaceted nature of teaching online for our students. This project iteratively evolved out of our “Strategies for Teaching Online”  cohort training process. The college Center for Teaching and Learning collaborated with an interdisciplinary group of faculty to focus on both essential online pedagogy, as well as the necessary factors that must be taken into account when teaching our students. The first pilot started with a group of faculty who had been highly effective teachers, but had not taught an online course. Guided by the team, the faculty designed the online version of the course over the course of one semester and launched it the following semester. Over several iterations of this process, the team continually refined the process and assessments. 

Once the emergency shift to online course delivery happened in Spring 2020, we combined the workshop training series with the campus specific assessment to create an internal certification model and process. The training and certification process contains five modules which encompass a wide spectrum of online pedagogical best practices. As part of the process, faculty must develop a fully online course in collaboration with one of our Instructional Designers.

Taking into account the many levels of skills that faculty have and desire to learn, in addition to the “full certification”, we developed a “remote emergency teaching certificate.” Many faculty reported that they found the full training (ours as well as those offered by other entities)to be overwhelming and would result in them not attempting the training at all. To scaffold to meet all of our faculty needs, we built the remote emergency training to contain the basics of effective teaching remotely, as well as growing resources. As faculty acclimated themselves to the concept of teaching remotely, many returned and received the full online certification, as opposed to before when they were planning on forgoing any training at all. 

Workshop Modules: 

Bearing in mind that technology is ever changing, the modules focus on the theory and practice of online courses over specific technologies. Mechanisms such as curating engagement with one's online course, equitable and holistic assessment practices, and the research backed-pedagogical reasoning behind all of them. Modules were comprised of four main sections: applicable resources, applied technology, discussions, and course implementation. 

The discussion boards had faculty participants both actively practice mechanisms of asynchronous engagement as well as compare and contrast their experiences and how the new skills could be applied in the future. Unlike traditional course discussion boards which tend to be boring and unengaging, these discussion boards had clear guidelines and mechanisms for engagement within. It ensured faculty discussed content and applications with each other instead of simply summarizing the reading. 

As part of the module, the faculty implements the relevant concepts from the module into their course. We believe in active agile development, so we encourage faculty to develop the course they will use in the future, not just a “sample” course to practice the ideas in general. At each stage, the CTL team gives detailed and dedicated feedback as to what can be improved, paired with data and resources as to why that is the case. 

Finally, at the end of the process, the course is reviewed by a senior member of the team to confirm that it meets the QC specific standards online course development. We don’t limit faculty to submitting their course for review, as we see this process as more of a conversation and collaboration than a one-time assessment of work. Learning, like most things, is iteratively done. Thus, as faculty learn and grow, we encourage them to do so with us as well. 

Alongside the direct workshop activities, virtual drop-in hours were available to all faculty participating in the workshop. They could seek support for any aspect of the workshop modules, general edtech questions, or revamping their courses for online instruction. Faculty could come in, share their screen and be guided by experienced CTL staff in accomplishing their goals. By having encompassing “one-stop-shop” help available during designated times throughout the week, this enabled instructors from various disciplines to try new things, and get support before they hit a wall of frustration. Faculty could continue to utilize drop-in hours even after completion of the workshop, ensuring that support was always available for them. This model was so popular and praised by the faculty, that several other faculty-facing departments (such as ITS), began hosting their own. 

Level of Participation: 

This is a highly participatory session. Rather than lecture at the audience for 45 minute, the presenters will frame the session around conversations related to assessing online courses and developing internal training and certification processes. Throughout the session, the presenters will engage the audience through tools such as Mentimeter and the Zoom chat, and frame the conversation around that.

A large chunk of the session will also be spent in scaffolded engagement breakout rooms. Essentially, after presenting the problem to a large audience members will have the option of moving into a breakout room guided by a presenter focused on topics that the audience seemed most interested in earlier in the presentation.

To support and engage our audience at all levels, engagement during the session will be scaffolded. During the breakout rooms participants can also choose to engage: 

  • Discussing with the other members of the session via audio/video in Zoom 
  • By sharing resources and ideas in a shared collaborative resource page.

Session Goals: 

Participants who attend this session will understand the process for setting up an internal training and certification for online teaching. They will also learn about the many non-pedagogical aspects that are essential for online course development as well as the other department stakeholders that must be involved for a successful deployment of this type.