Two Sides of the Same Coin: Online Teaching and Course Design

This post is the second of a series about principles in teaching and learning with contributions by Jim Julius and Michelle Pacansky-Brock

coinsLike Fred and Ginger, peanut butter and jelly, the Patriots and the Super Bowl, some things are so closely linked that they simply don’t make sense without the other. For online education, how we design our course and how we teach our course are the inseparable pair–two sides of the same coin.

The professional development program developed by @ONE has long focused on both sides of this coin. In 2011, we used the iNacol Standards for Quality Online Teaching as the criteria for our online teaching certificate, and in 2014, we customized these standards to develop the @ONE Standards for Quality Online Teaching. The @ONE Standards were the foundation for the design and teaching practices that underpinned the @ONE Certificate in Online Teaching, representing both sides of the coin in one essential set of standards.

In 2014, though, the Online Education Initiative developed the OEI Online Course Design Rubric. This rubric focused solely on foundational criteria for course design, and pushed the shared standards for designing quality courses well beyond the @ONE Standards. Over the course of two years, as the rubric was used by faculty across the state, it went through some major revisions, and sets a gold standard for course design quality. In essence, the OEI Rubric advanced the initial design criteria offered in the @ONE Standards.

This caused a bit of a rub when using the @ONE Standards. Participants moving through the @ONE courses sometimes struggled with determining which set of standards or criteria they should be privileging. Participants in our courses were not always able to see which document was driving course design decisions–the Rubric, or the Standards. Moreover, as technology changed, and as more data about student success in online learning became available, we realized that the teaching practices outlined in the @ONE Standards needed some careful revision to better reflect the mission of the California Community Colleges (CCCs), including an emphasis on student success and equity.

So, this fall, we drew upon the collective wisdom of experienced online teachers from across our system in a collaborative effort to articulate a set of teaching principles that reflect the specific needs of our students, staff, and faculty. Our first step was to remove the course design elements–now the purview of the OEI Course Design Rubric–and focus our attention on the other side of the coin, the practices and behaviors that support quality online teaching.

Working from the original set of standards and resources that helped us better understand the national dialog around great online teaching (including those outlined by Jim in his post on Monday), carefully examining data about our online students, and drawing on the knowledge and expertise of our peers across the system, we developed a set of principles for quality Online teaching tailored to the CCCs. The principles state that effective online teachers:

  1. Are present within their course;
  2. Apply equitable methods to promote student access and success while acknowledging institutional obstacles;
  3. Respond to student needs and use data for continuous course improvement;
  4. Teach and model ethical online interaction, while helping students develop digital literacy that will poise them for success;
  5. Recognize ongoing professional development is a central component of their success.

We would like to invite you to read the full text of the Principles for Quality Online Teaching, and hope the principles give you some ideas to mull over and discuss with peers. Most importantly, we invite you to participate in developing our communal understanding of these principles by joining us in a webinar, writing a blog post, or participating in a course.

We think the pairing of the new Principles for Quality Online Teaching with the OEI Course Design Rubric lays the foundation for your success and the success of our students, but the reality is, Ginger and Fred engaged in a lot of practice before they became Hollywood legends. The Principles provide the initial steps for the intricate dance of teaching and learning, but our continued conversation and engagement with one another is the music that breathes life into the dance.

Teaching–face-to-face and online–is hard work, and our students may need to surmount many walls along their path to success. The Principles remind us that the unique mission of the CCCs is not to separate the wheat from the chaff, but rather recognize the human potential in all of us.


Posted in Articles, digital citizenship, dynamic, equity, humanizing, Online Teaching, professional development.

Lené Whitley-Putz is the Dean of Online Learning at Foothill College. She has taught online writing, communication, and professional development. She serves on the California Community College’s Accessibility Standards Working Group, and loves working with animation.


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