A successful year for TeachOnline@UW

TeachOnline@UW just finished its fourth year of helping UW-Madison instructors design and teach fully online courses.  A May 9 culmination event celebrated the success of the 41 instructors who completed the program this year. Six recent graduates of the program shared how the experience has helped them enhance their online teaching, and two alumni from the first cohort explained how they’ve applied what they learned to high-enrollment online courses.

Tim Paustian, a Department of Bacteriology instructor who just completed TeachOnline@UW, called it a “transformative experience” that showed him the importance of building community in online courses.

“The methods I was taught in TeachOnline@UW make it much more likely that I’ll create a community that increases student participation,” Paustian said, “and I feel much more confident about going into my first online teaching experience.”

Karen Skibba, project manager of TeachOnline@UW, discusses the program’s goals at a May 9 culmination event that attracted about 100 attendees. She said instructors devote significant time improving their courses during the program, demonstrating their “commitment to teaching quality online courses.”

Heather Kirkorian, an associate professor teaching high-enrollment courses in the School of Human Ecology, noted that careful planning goes a long way in online courses. She also shared a tip she received in TeachOnline@UW: Be strategic with time-intensive activities like manually grading papers.

“One-paragraph discussion prompts can help students connect what we’re talking about to current events, a big issue in the world, or something in their own experiences,” Kirkorian said. “I’ve been really, really impressed with what our students will do in a 200-word discussion post with a well-constructed prompt, things I think I’ve never seen them do in a five-page research paper.”

Since its inception, 135 faculty and instructors have completed TeachOnline@UW, which combines online courses with discussions about implementing research-based best practices for course design and teaching. The program has two courses that put instructors in the role of the online students they teach. The first focuses on planning and designing an online course, while the second centers on course facilitation and management. Participants may complete one or both courses.

The aforementioned discussions, which take place face-to-face or via webinar after each module of the courses, include participants’ colleagues and facilitators who are instructional design experts. They are a supportive place to work through challenges associated with online teaching and learning; they are also a space to share strategies and success stories.

In a recent survey, 100% of TeachOnline@UW participants indicated that they were satisfied with the program. They have used their new knowledge in leading more than 300 online courses for approximately 14,000 students. Participants experience what it is like to be online learners as their facilitators model the best practices they’re studying.

Participants also benefit from the community TeachOnline@UW builds across campus. Instructors from 14 schools and colleges and 71 departments have completed the program, which fosters cross-campus dialogue and collaboration.

TeachOnline@UW is free, and many participants receive a stipend for participating ($750 for completing one course, $1,500 for completing both). Spots are still open in the fall Plan & Design course. If you know instructors who might be interested in this opportunity, encourage them to apply by July 31.

For more information about TeachOnline@UW, contact program manager Karen Skibba at karen.skibba@wisc.edu.