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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Credential for Online Teaching?

Experts suggest an online teaching credential will appear in the next ten years, reinforcing the idea that there are specific skills required for online instruction. Others maintain that a good teacher is good in any environment and no credential is required. I can see both sides. I was however dismayed to find many of the curricula I've reviewed for on-line education or instructional design programs boil down to technology training, not pedagogical enrichment.

My sense is that the best teaching is done by instructors who make the content their own. These instructors don't depend on a single textbook or another instructor's syllabus or activities or technologies. Instead, they gather the tools and techniques that work for them in their environment. I honestly believe that teaching online opens as many doors with its plethora of tech tools as it closes by separating teacher and students.

When I joined the Penn State faculty to teach in the on-line MGIS program I was invited to join a two week course for new on--line instructors. It was the first online course I'd ever taken and highlighted the key differences between in-classroom and online learning. I found it very helpful. With that introduction, I was off to write my first class! Thankfully, I was paired with two different instructional designers during my time in that program. Those individuals (hat tip to Beth and Khurso) helped me find the appropriate technology to do what I wanted to do in my courses. In retrospect, one of the most valuable things I learned from them was that I had to "teach the way I teach," just online. Their job might in part be described as "enabling me to do so."

Based on my experience, the best way to learn to teach online is to teach online. But I'd add, the first few courses should be taught with a "partner in crime" (PIC) who can help you navigate the challenges. (That sounds like what a first year classroom teacher should have, too, doesn't it?) That PIC might be a more experienced instructor, an instructional designer or someone else who understands what's possible online. I really don't want to see great teachers wasting time on another credential when they could and should be teaching.

- Denver Post