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Preparing to Teach Online


Preparing to Teach Online (PtTO) is a 12-week totally online course designed to assist individual faculty members to develop the knowledge and skills needed to be effective online instructors. Participation in this online experience provides insight about what it means to teach and learn online through dialogue, mutual support, mentoring, reflection, and collaboration. It also provides the invaluable experience of learning about online pedagogy in an online environment from the student's perspective. Participants will gain practice using online communication tools, such as discussion boards, shared wiki spaces, social media, and online journals, all of which support the development of collaboration skills so important to teaching online. The PtTO course is offered each Fall and Spring semester.

All full and part-time faculty members - with expected online teaching responsibilities - are eligible to apply for participation in the PtTO course. Faculty members participating in the course will receive a $1,500 fund transfer to their department to use for professional development / travel related to online teaching and learning.

Course Description

The course is organized into six (6) modules, which are outlined below. The modules are designed using the Preparation, Interaction, and Evaluation (P.I.E.) model (Nastanski & Colaric, 2008). The Preparation phase begins with a set of key questions and learning outcomes that focus the learning for that module. The Interaction phase includes reviewing "readings" in the form of digital articles, images, book chapters, websites, videos, and podcasts, followed by varied collaborative activities. Central to any online course, interaction with content, interaction with the instructor, interaction with each other, and interaction with oneself are modeled. Modules conclude with the Evaluation phase, which focuses on individual learning and the value of the course activities for the learners. Participants reflect on their own learning and ways to evaluate the effectiveness of their own courses.

Each module helps to bring the generalized information about effective online teaching to the specifics of establishing those concepts in real activities in an online course. Significant emphasis is placed on reflective practice, building community, and sharing ideas with faculty colleagues in the course.

Course Schedule

The Spring 2014 course is scheduled to run from January 24 through April 30. A general schedule for the course modules is outlined below, with each taking approximately two (2) weeks to complete.

  1. Orientation – Meeting at the Center for Teaching Excellence [Monday, January 6]
  2. Preliminary Online Activity with the Six Guiding Principles [January 6 – January 24]
  3. Module One – Introduction to the Online Learning Environment [January 24 – February 12]
  4. Module Two – Learning Goals and Outcomes [February 10 – February 26]
  5. Module Three – Content Selection [February 24 – March 19 (Spring Break)]
  6. Module Four – Online Collaboration and Interactions [March 17 – April 2]
  7. Module Five – Assessment and Evaluation [March 31 – April 16]
  8. Module Six – Pulling it All Together: The Online Class [April 14 – April 30]
  9. End-of-Course Gathering [TBA]

Please download this document for additional information about each module

Online Teaching Consultations

Making the transition to online teaching and learning can be as exciting as it is disorienting. Faculty members new to this environment often find they have to rethink important parts of successful past practice in order to be effective in the online environment. The teaching consultations with CTE staff are intended to provide ongoing opportunities to support individual faculty members as they explore a wide range of issues related to teaching, course design and uses of technology that are unique to the online environment. These consultations allow for the consultant to offer customized support unique to the needs of each faculty member.

Course Engagement

For many VCU faculty members, their experience in PtTO is the first time they have participated in an online course. Feedback from previous faculty participants in PtTO has indicated that it can be a challenge to fully anticipate the changes and expectations for learning in the online environment. The following perspectives from VCU faculty might help you become prepared for meaningful engagement in the PtTO online course:

  1. Establishing a regular participation habit was critical to understanding the transition to online teaching. Integrate your participation in PtTO into your schedule.
  2. Regular participation in online discussions was essential to their learning about online teaching.
  3. Collaboration with colleagues was the most helpful component of the course in recognizing the support needs of their online students.
  4. Becoming an active member of the online learning community created a real transformation in thinking about their teaching practice.

Past faculty participants in PTTO are willing to discuss their experiences with you, and you are encouraged to contact them to discuss the course. Past participants can be found here.

Application Process

Faculty members interested in being considered for participation in the Preparing to Teach Online (PtTO) for Spring 2014 are asked to provide the following by 4:30 pm, December 20, 2013.

  1. Application for the Preparing to Teach Online (PTTO)
  2. A letter of support from the school dean and/or department chairperson that describes support for the faculty member's participation in the Preparing to Teach Online (PtTO) course, recognition of the time and work involved. The letter should include rationale that describes how this faculty member's participation is part of a strategic effort in the school/ department to enhance online course/degree offerings.

If you are interested in participating in the course but are unable to apply for the Spring semester, please contact Joyce Kincannon, jmkincannon@vcu.edu, for more information about applying for the Fall  2014 offering. You may also be interested in applying for the Online Course Development Initiative that begins at the end of Spring semester. Information on this initiative can be found here.


Virginia Commonwealth University | Center for Teaching Excellence
Last modified: November 25, 2013
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