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Community Participant

Online Teaching Consulting Suggestions

This isn't necessarily a Canvas question but I thought maybe some of you would have some ideas. We are currently proposing to bring in a consultant for training our faculty for better online teaching. Any suggestions for this?

21 Replies
Community Coach
Community Coach

 @Brian_Renshaw , I don’t have anyone specific in mind, but something to think about is what does your school think is good quality online instruction? I only ask because different training could have different pedagogical focuses that may or may not fit with what your school believes is good Instruction.

Do you have a rubric you use at your school for what a good online course should look like and how it should function (Ex: Quality Matters)? And, to play devils advocate, how do you know your teachers need improving? Are they already being assessed on the quality of their courses? Do you know where they need improving?

sorry for the questions, but I think something like this, while it can be a huge help, can also hurt (or have no long term impact) if not done correctly and without thinking it through. 

Community Coach
Community Coach

Good points  @kona . Your question about how do you know that teachers need improving is important as it also leads to what motivation the faculty have to engage in professional development.  If there is a disconnect between views of faculty and administration in relation to the need for such training, then it could impact the effectiveness of these efforts.

I teach a class on course design and facilitation in online and blended environments at my institution.  A significant portion of this class is spent on effective design.  I find that most faculty have not had training on foundational elements of teaching such as writing goals/objectives, instructional alignment, and choosing an appropriate evaluation strategy for students as well as the class overall.  When it comes to facilitating a class, there are often concerns about how to be engaging, build community, create effective discussions, and maintain integrity of the learning environment. 

Faculty, as we know, are subject matter experts and frequently have little training in the art/science of teaching prior to entering the classroom.  My experience is that in these situations folks normally start teaching the way their own professors did or follow the lead of colleagues.  This provides an opportunity, if institutional or departmental culture encourages what aligns with current thought on effective teaching, but also represents a significant source of momentum to continue doing what has always been done.

Community Champion

For what it's worth, I think a great introduction for faculty is the book Teaching Online: A Practical Guide, 4th edition. We have it as a sort of "text" for faculty to go through (along with a course site that spells out what Canvas offers in line with the text), and the faculty who have read it all seem to enjoy it, based on our reviews.  I'll tag laurakgibbs‌ here, because I know that she's a fan of Best Practices for Teaching with Emerging Technologies, 2nd Community member  @mpb ‌.  The advantage of that book is that while it is not devoted exclusively to online teaching, the faculty who are also teaching hybrid/face-to-face courses will benefit, as well. In fact, half of the text is available for free on the web, thanks to what she calls a "special negotiation" with her publisher.

Community Champion

Thanks for the ping and for mentioning  @mpb ‌'s book,  @kblack ‌! One of the reasons I know that Michelle wanted to get a lot of the book available online was to increase access (Routledge books are so expensive), and also because a text that about the online world works best in an online world where you can click the links and go and learn. Printed texts that contain hyperlinks are very sad IMO, like birds whose wings have been clipped or cheetahs in a cage.

Michelle does amazing stuff where her focus is on helping faculty to develop their own online presence, and I cannot say enough good things about her presence-based approach. If you give faculty books or face to face training, that does not really help them make that leap into the deep end of the pool where they can learn to let go of what they know and really start swimming.

My impression is that the single biggest barrier to faculty getting good at teaching online is that they have not experienced good online learning themselves and that they have developed their own teaching and learning persona online. When they walk into a classroom, not only is that something they have done hundreds of times before; it is also something they have seen done by a couple hundred DIFFERENT teachers over the course of their educational careers spent inside classrooms, often for two decades or more of their lives. That's why I object so strongly to the mantra of "sameness" in LMS design and template-driven courses. In order to find what really clicks for you online, you need to explore the wealth and variety of online possibilities, exploring difference, not sameness.

Michelle's book has case studies and I see the other book Ken recommended has case studies, which is great... the more you can get your faculty to share what they like via case studies and what they themselves do online, the better! So, while you focus on a consultant, I would also urge you to focus on building an online learning network for your faculty: something that is fully online, and that will persist after whatever workshops you organize. Some great tips from Silvia Tolisano at Langwitches about what that kind of professional development online PLN can look like:

professional development hub graphic

Community Participant

Hi Ken. Thanks for the nice mention here. It always makes me smile to know when my book is noted as a helpful resource for faculty. I hope the open version (although partial) is proving to be a helpful resource. I've heard from readers that it has given them the opportunity to decide whether or not the book is useful to them, giving them a better way to determine whether or not they wish to purchase the complete book. This feedback is important, as traditional publishers are trying to navigate the value of open resources.



Community Participant

Hi Laura (am I the only one who has troubling mentioning people in the Canvas Community area?!).

As always, thank you for your support of my work. I wanted to chime in here and also thank you for connecting us with the great work shared by SIlivia Tolisano at Langwitches. Wow!  It is so relevant to my efforts right now. In my new role with the California Community Colleges, I am designing statewide professional development opportunities to engage faculty and staff in networked learning through blogs and Twitter. Our first formal program, Reflective Writing Club (a 6-week blogging club), starts on January 26th. We're also planning a free, online conference in celebration of Digital Learning Day on February 22nd.  These events are tailored to the CCCs, but open to anyone. 

I'll keep you posted on how things go! 

Have a great day,


I appreciate the suggestions on books  @kblack . We have been using The Online Teaching Survival Guide: Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips: Judith V. Boettcher, Rita... . Response has been fairly positive from faculty, although I have wondered about the feasibility of crowd sourcing an OER.  There is a lot of great information on the web now, but I wish there was something similar to OpenStax where a good text on getting started online was available free of charge that pulled all of this into one place, like the books available for purchase do.

Community Champion

 @mpb  I think your new job is SO IMPORTANT... my school is just not going to get an online community off the ground on its own (even though we have probably a couple hundred faculty who teach at least one course online), so having a system-wide initiative like what you all are doing in California is something that is really needed, and it can then be a model for others.

I am doing some kind of Zoom hangout or something with you all in January I think —  @kbv7001 ‌ set it up; let me check: January 31! I'll check in with you to see what you think I can contribute that will be most useful.

And I totally want to be in your blogging club, so that sounds like really good timing! I just signed up. What a nice online form you used for that; new to me. I like it!

Oh, mentions here at Canvas Community are all about the underscore: you type the @ sign and then the person's first name, then underscore and that allows you to keep typing the last name. I forget who taught me how to do that, but it works! 🙂

Community Contributor

brenshaw833, I guess I'd echo a few other Community members by suggesting that a needs-survey be offered to faculty to get a deeper sense of what learning they would find beneficial towards their professional growth. The possibility of differentiating the faculty training/learning is worth exploring, as they'll be much happier and receptive if options are provided that honor current/existing levels of knowledge, skill, and understanding.

This can be accomplished without the expense of outside assistance, in many cases, with publicly available resources focused on quality online course facilitation. Access an example. I use this collection of articles via a Canvas Discussion that provides adult learners with choice about what facilitation-topic they want to focus on for their own continuous learning.