Monday, November 26, 2007

National Distance Learning Week - Our Distance Educators

Did you know that teaching online is very different than teaching in a face-to-face (F2F) classroom? Online professors have a new set of challenges. Communication and interaction are carried out differently, and lectures and notes must be transmitted in new ways. Different, however, does not mean impossible.

Associate Provost, Dr. Victoria McGillin said, “Distance education poses new and exciting challenges for even the most experienced faculty. The very nature of how one structures courses, how one actively engages learners in a virtual environment and faculty role in balancing student online discussions call for the development of new pedagogical ‘muscles.’ Faculty at TWU are very fortunate to have a number of opportunities to stretch their own knowledge base and learn new skills through workshops and learning communities focusing on on-line teaching and learning. I encourage faculty to take advantage of these opportunities to further excel as academics.”

Instructors new to online teaching have many resources available to them to help them adjust to the new style. Even those professors who have been in the online environment a long time have many opportunities throughout the year to explore new online teaching techniques.

The Office of Lifelong Learning has offered seminars, instructional design support and training documents for faculty and adjuncts who teach online. The seminars and workshops are offered each semester to all the TWU campuses, ranging in subject from improved communication to promising practices. The Instructional Design Team of Lifelong Learning has created an online faculty course for those new to online teaching. Participants enrolled in the online course go through different modules of information illustrating promising practices for the online classroom. This course is also offered as a self-paced version for all faculty members each semester. Our distance educators also have opportunities to expand their pedagogical tools by attending technology and distance learning conferences such as Texas Blackboard Users Group, Educause, Texas Distance Learning Association, Blackboard World and Sloan-C to name a few.

This past spring semester, TWU distance educators had the opportunity to participate in an online training program called Quality Matters ™ or QM. QM is a peer-review process for online educators developed by MarylandOnline, Inc. It uses a rubric to assess the design of online courses to see if they meet certain criteria that promote quality, effectiveness and efficiency. To date, 37 TWU faculty members have participated in the QM Peer Reviewer Training.

Music and Drama Professor, Dr. Nancy Hadsell and QM certified instructor said, “Training in the use of the Quality Matters rubric and resources was extremely helpful in assisting me to upgrade my online course so that it meets what are being considered the highest standards for distance learning. The QM course was offered online, easy to complete, and invaluable in assisting me to achieve the Quality Matters approval for my distance learning course.”

TWU’s distance education faculty members have many, varied opportunities to learn the latest in online pedagogy. As technology advances and the popularity of DE continues to grow, our faculty are using the most promising online teaching strategies to create educational programs and courses of the highest quality.