Teaching at Scale: Improving Access, Outcomes, and Impact through Digital Instruction

Concurrent Session 3

Brief Abstract

This session will present a summary and discussion of Teaching at Scale: Improving Access, Outcomes, and Impact through Digital Instruction, published in October 2022 by Routledge. The session will focus on ten opportunities and six design principles for teaching at scale.


David Joyner is the Associate Director for Student Experience in Georgia Tech's College of Computing, overseeing the administration of the college's online Master of Science in Computer Science program as well as its new online undergraduate offerings. He has developed and teaches CS6460: Educational Technology, CS6750: Human-Computer Interaction, and CS1301: Introduction to Computing, all online.

Extended Abstract

In this session, I will present the findings and proposed principles from my recent book Teaching at Scale. The presentation will mirror the book itself: the first part of the presentation will lay out the landscale of teaching at scale. It will define a spectrum of at-scale initiatives ranging from large in-person classes to even larger online classes to MOOCs to informal learning communities. Along the way, it will define a number of principles or criteria we may use to define teaching at scale initiatives, such as the type of scale, the credit-worthiness of the initiative, and the student support model. It will further explore how the overlap among these different criteria generates the landscape of at-scale learning initiatives we see today.

From there, the presentation will look at ten supposed challenges to teaching-at-scale initiatives. These are issues that critics have brought up as reasons why teaching at scale cannot work, either in that it will generate an inferior learning experience or in that it is impossible to implement in practice. Each of these challenges, however, is an opportunity in disguise. The presentation will describe how each perceived challenge can be pivoted into an opportunity, along with strategies for maximizing that opportunity.

The challenges and opportunities themselves are:

  • Providing high-quality asynchronous instruction.
  • Handling the large volume of questions generated by at-scale learning initiatives.
  • Addressing the varied audiences that come with scale.
  • Providing support for differing levels of student motivation.
  • Addressing the social isolation online students often experience.
  • Building a full campus experience beyond a series of isolated classes.
  • Ensuring consistent grading and feedback across numerous graders.
  • Providing high-quality qualitative feedback at scale.
  • Ensuring academic integrity.
  • Handling the increasingly-common edge cases that come with at-scale learning initiatives.

After presenting these ten challenges and the coinciding opportunities, the presentation will present six principles for at-scale learning initiatives in the future:

  • Frontload & Invest: a principle for maximizing the quality and reusability of frontloadable content.
  • Reuse to Reinvest: a principle for ensuring that the time saved by the first principle is reinvested into the student experience.
  • Centralize & Specialize: a principle for allowing individuals to specialize in complex roles rather be forced to serve numerous positions.
  • Leverage Scale to Address Scale: a principle for observing where scale itself is the solution to the problems it itself solves.
  • Leverage the Diversity of Scale: a principle for ensuring that the diverse audiences brought in by at-scale learning initiatives are leveraged to improve the experience itself.
  • Emphasize Lifelong Learning for All: a principle for ensuring the benefits of teaching at scale are invested into student experience.

The presentation will conclude with a discussion of other at-scale initiatives and how these principles may apply to the audience’s own challenges.