Mastery Online

Pattern number within this pattern set: 
Karen Krupar
Metro State College of Denver

The increase in online instruction leaves no doubt about the need for faculty professional development in online teaching both in terms of technology and pedagogical competencies (Riley, l996). In the U.S. very few faculty development programs exist to enhance faculty's online instructional efforts (Schrum, l995). Those that do consist of fragmented workshops or one-shot conferences on technology (Williams & Peters, l997). This paper addresses two problems: First,
the system goal involves the introduction of a competency model of certified training of faculty. Second, the outcomes goal involves training faculty for certification of online instruction.


The issues of online training of faculty resonate across the U.S. The Professional Organizational Development Network conference addresses the issue each year in its conference proceedings(POD Conference, 2001) The major question revolves around how to quarrantee consistency of quality in online programs. With such a mobile student population, institutions even in the same state will not accept transfer credits from other state colleges/ universities if the course credits are for online classes (Colorado Commission on Higher Education, 2001) . In many instances, online course credit is non-transferable. This means that despite the many efforts of college administrators to promote online education for its convenience among other factors, these same administrators and college officials do not support the transferability of credit for online courses from other institutions. The question of quality of instruction and control over content provides the context for much of the controversy over online course delivery. How can quality be managed for these kinds of courses and programs? One answer is to develop a national program of Online Instructional Certification.


A program of certification in online education operates on the basis of six functions that Duchastel (l997) describes as: l) specifying the goals to be pursued; 2) acepting diversity of outcomes; 3) requesting production of knowledge; 4) evaluating at the task level; 5) building learning teams; and 6) encouraging global communities. These functions influence the development of five core competency patterns learned by online instructors: selecting (materials, activities and courses) suited for online delivery; preparing (content for online delivery); delivering (providing instruction online); managing (handling the course online); assessing (evaluating student learning in this environment).

In addition to the core competency patterns, faculty need enabling skills (computer skills) that constitute the essential threshold to online education. These include: selecting computer systems, creating healthy workspaces, using input devices, operating the electronic communication system in the college,using the operating system, mastering advanced features of the operating system, using voice input, selecting and using ADA input and output options, developing word processing and spread sheet competencies, etc.

Sustaining competency patterns represent the third variable in the model of online faculty training. To ensure that a program of online education does not fall victim to the entropy of complacency, the training must include instruction in those competencies that are essential for creating and perpetuating excellence. These include: evaluating the effectiveness of the online course and revising or altering the online course when and where it is appropriate.

Each of these competency patterns in the model is examined in depth in the proposed presentation.

A Closer Examination of Core Competency Patterns

The five core competencies constitute the heart of the curriculum because they are what faculty do:
o From the vast body of domain-specific knowledge faculty select the concepts, information and skills to include in their courses.
o They prepare this material for instruction.
o They deliver it in such a way that learners can make it their own.
o They manage the learning experience, taking into account the mix of personality and ability among their students as well as the technology and logistics of the instructional environment.
o Throughout the course, they assess the learning of their students, providing praise, encouragement, and corrective feedback as needed.

Competency in these five steps is essential for success in moving from purely on-site instruction to instruction that is either partially or totally online. The
following sections expand on the concept of each core competency.

l. Selecting What to Put Online
Faculty will inventory the courses they teach and identify materials, activities and possibly entire courses that could work well online. This component of the curriculum will provide faculty with specific guidelines for accomplishing this inventory. Faculty will be encouraged to work closely with their department chairs for validation of their selection of materials for online delivery.

2. Preparing the Learning Experience
With specific instructional content in mind, faculty will explore the options for preparing instruction for online delivery. They will learn pedagogical principles and technques for making the materials they put online more effective for their students. They will learn to make accurate estimates of how long it will take to implement their plans for preparing their materials for online delivery. They also will learn how to work with specialists in multimedia development to produce advanced media components or even entire online courses.

3. Delivering the Learning Experience
Studies of what makes for successful classroom teaching indicate that personal dynamism, energy, and the ability to make contact with learners are major components of success. Dynamism, energy, and ability to make contact are also major factors in the success of online delivery, but the effective application of these traits requires a set of very different skills compared to classroom instruction. Workshops in this section of the curriculum will present methods of online instruction and help faculty identify those methods that are most appropriate for their teaching style, the types of course content, and their students.

4. Managing the Online Class
One of the most frequent comments from faculty new to online teaching is that they find it extremely time consuming. Can one avoid being overwhelmed and still provide a quality learning experience for students? What about decorum in the online environment? How does the online teacher keep the tone of the entire experience on a high plane? And what does one do if studnts start "flaming" one another or the instructor? This component of the curriculum will present methods of managing the online class climate and suggest techniques for success.

5. Assessing Student Performance
The online learning enviornment puts in question many of the standard practices of onsite assessment of student performance. what kinds of test or other types
of evaluation can one offer online? Is there any way to guard against cheating?
Are proctored tests a good solution? Can one assess students in other ways than
just testing? Can one require graded group activities in an online class? Classes in this section of the workshop curriculum will help answer these questions by presenting options for assessing student performance in online
courses with an emphasis on alternatives to the proctored written exam.

A Closer Look at Enabling Competencies

For faculty members, equipping for the online endeavor means expanding their store of knowledge and skill to include use and mastery of the essential tools of technology. It means acquiring and installing the essential computer system components. It means learning how to use those components. Finally, it means creating an ergonomically appropriate workspace and adopting healthy computer work practices. All these factors become important when the faculty member plans to handle online courses from home.

A Closer Look at Sustaining Competencies

The two sustaining competencies, evaluate and revise, are essential to ensure that flaws and weaknesses are identified and eliminated as soon as possible. This is a particularly problematic area of endeavor. Some extensive online education enterprises that have been operation for years still have not determined how to realize peer evaluation of online instruction. As to student evaluation of online instruction, it may be simple to implement but quite difficult to validate. Students come to the online learning experience with widely varying expectations and levels of competency in the computer essentials.
Under such conditions, students may be incapable of differentiating between peripheral frustrations and the quality of instruction as they evaluate a specific online course and instructor. Finally, where institutuional evaluation exists, it may be purely summative and generalized, serving as a poor tool for identifying what specific changes should be made to improve instruction in specific course offerings. Thus, instruction in the sustaining competencies will provide instructors the tools for formative evaluation and revision of their own courses as they are teaching them.

Validation of the certification model results from two actions. First, the researchers have validated the concept through experts in a conference of peers entitled, "Teaching Online in Higher Education Online Conference," November 12, 2001 in which the model was discussed and assessed by an online set of peer reviewers at the conference. Second, a survey of the top 10 institutions with the largest enrollments where the majority of the program majors and minors are taught online is being instituted on current faculty development programs and the data reported in this presentation. A pilot test of the model also will be initiated during the early summer months at the college through a U.S. Department of Education Title III, Activity Two grant, the funding of which the college received for the professional development of its faculty at the institution.


The faculty training curriculum in the model offers learning experiences that lead to certification in each core, enabling and sustaining competency. These learning experiences may be of various sorts, e.g., peer/tutoring or coaching; team teaching with certified faculty; computer or Web-based instruction; workshops; classes; and seminars. Faculty who accumulate certification or validation in all competencies will earn "Online Master" certification.

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