Distance Learning

Online Teaching Strategies Certificate part of
Central's innovative faculty development initiative

APACHE JUNCTION, Ariz. – The semester has commenced, the online classes are full, the students are logged into the system, and the professors are using the latest technology to provide a top-notch, out-of-class experience.

It doesn’t always go so smoothly, but Central Arizona College has devised a program to help faculty connect with students they may never see face to face. The Online Teaching Strategies Certificate is one of the first in the nation.

“The purpose of the program is to make faculty better facilitators online,” Janie Sullivan, faculty development specialist, said. “Teaching online is different than face-to-face. Some teachers just go online without putting too much thought into it. Some teachers say they won’t teach online. Others say it is easy to do. Teaching online is not easy. It takes time and commitment by the faculty and students.”

The certificate program at Central Arizona College is designed to teach the teachers.
Sullivan makes sure that professors build the relationships even though they may never pick the student from a photo array.

I respond to every student bio,” Sullivan said, explaining how she requests students to post their background information so she can lay the foundation for a cyberspace relationship. “Reviewing and responding to the bios creates a sense ‘That I know them.’ I know them all because I establish a relationship online. Faculty need to establish relationships online through continuous interaction in discussion boards and forums set up for social as well as content-related conversation.”

The certificate program becomes a full-fledged offering in 2008, but faculty can begin the training now by taking some of the initial classes. The first eight courses are being offered as special topics during the spring, summer and fall semesters in 2007.

Each course carries one academic credit, which will be applied to the certificate when it is ready to be offered in early 2008. The online courses are from 10-20 days long and all but one are delivered through Blackboard with round-the-clock access for the facilitators and participants. The lone exception is the iTV course, which is conducted as a hybrid, with one four-hour session spent face-to-face in the iTV labs and four days of online sessions.

The ultimate goal of the program is to keep students in school by developing strong web-based teaching skills.

“Distance learning retention is so low now because students feel disconnected,” Sullivan said.
 
But distant learning is not a new concept, dating back to the Greeks and Socrates. Correspondence courses taken by mail have their roots in England, but today’s technology allows distance learning to no longer require postage.

Central’s ability to develop the program came courtesy of a Title V Cooperative Grant from the United States Department of Education in conjunction with Arizona State University. The five-year grant of $2,998,788 will finance 100 percent of the project with federal funds.

“Title V Grants are designed to enhance learning opportunities for Hispanic students,” Sullivan explained. “The program we developed will help give Hispanic students an opportunity to take college classes mainly though an online environment. My position is to train the faculty who will teach those students.”

Title V Grant applicants must provide, on the Hispanic Serving Institution Program Profile, the documentation the institution relied upon in determining that at least 25 percent of the institution’s undergraduate full-time equivalency students are Hispanic. At the time the grant application was developed, Central also had to provide documentation that at least 50 percent of the enrolled Hispanic students were low-income individuals. Title V Grant applications no longer require the secondary criteria.

The Online Teaching Strategies Certificate will feature a total of 21 courses in the program. Curriculum has been or will be developed that includes outcomes, standards, activities and assessments for all courses. Discussion questions for each course also are developed, as well as all supplemental reading materials and templates for assignments. Each course has enough material to cover a minimum of 15 contact hours and 30 homework hours (or 45 hours of study).

Learning will be assessed through the use of pre-and post-assessments based on the outcomes for each course. Course facilitators also will assess learning through the observation of participant engagement and level of interaction in the class.

The certificate is comprised of 18 credits. There are 21 courses from which to choose, 15 of which are required for the certificate. Of the 15 courses, two have test-outs, leaving three to five electives to be chosen from the remaining six courses.

For more information on the Online Teaching Strategies Certificate, contact Sullivan by e-mail at janie.sullivan@centralaz.edu or by phone at either 520-494-5117 or 480-677-7765.

Central Arizona College - District Office 8470 N. Overfield Road, Coolidge, AZ 85128 Phone: 800-237-9814