Teaching Online @ Pitt

As we move ceaselessly into the future, technology inevitably changes the way we live our lives and get things done. Faxes have become emails, phones have become computers, and research has moved from silent libraries to the endless expanse of the Internet. So it should be no surprise that technology has changed and continues to change the ways in which teachers teach and students learn.

Many modern courses now live partially on the Internet on learning management systems like Blackboard, which allow Pitt faculty to post course materials like assignments, lectures, and even tests for students to access at any time from any place. Other courses take this idea a step further and live entirely on the Internet, which is becoming more and more common every year. Online programs such as Pitt Online can reach a much wider and more diverse audience than classes can, and they give students fuller and more convenient access to both the course and their instructors.

Unfortunately, however, classroom-based courses don’t always translate easily into web-based or web-augmented courses, and the process of developing an online course for the first time can be scary and even a little mysterious. To help faculty learn how to develop online courses, CIDDE has created Teaching Online @ Pitt, or TOP, which is itself an online course.

The TOP course introduces faculty to the skills and methods used to build and lead online classes. Because it is taught entirely online, it gives faculty an idea of what it will be like for their own students to take an online course, giving them a greater idea of what does and does not work when using the format.

The course lasts for three weeks and consists of three modules that discuss how to design an online course, develop course content, and engage with students and assess their learning. While these concepts are similar to creating and teaching a classroom-based course, they differ slightly because of the functionality that the Internet adds to the course. For example, in a classroom you can stand in front of your students to deliver a lecture, but on the Internet you might employ a web-based simulation or short multimedia presentation that includes video accompanied by images of slides captured from your computer screen. Similarly, you might also add links to videos or websites from outside the university that address the topic of your lesson.

The TOP course objectives include:

  • To analyze an online learning experience from the student’s perspective.
  • To apply a systematic backwards course development process that includes planning outcomes, establishing activities, and assessing student achievement.
  • To compare and contrast technology tools and Blackboard features that enhance students learning as well as engage and motivate students.

Pitt faculty who participate in the TOP course are taking a proactive step into the future of education.  Online courses are here to stay, but the only way to ensure that they live up to their full potential is to take the time to learn how to best develop them.

The May 12 TOP Workshop is currently full. Our next session will run on Monday, Sept. 8, 2014. Please complete our registration form if you’d like to participate.

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