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Designing Self-Paced Training Modules as the Foundation of Online Faculty Certification

Jason Rhode (Northern Illinois University, USA)
Session Information
November 21, 2013 - 11:30am
Faculty and Professional Development & Support
Areas of Special Interest: 
Institutional Initiatives
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Practical Application
Institutional Level: 
Multiple Levels
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Asia 5
Session Duration: 
35 Minutes
Information Session 8

Learn about Northern Illinois University's innovative faculty development initiative to offer self-paced introductory online teaching training as an initial phase of comprehensive online faculty certification.

Extended Abstract


Unlike the face-to-face classroom in which educators typically have the luxury of being able to connect with students in a synchronous manner, the online learning environment presents many challenges and barriers in facilitation which can be jarring for those new to teaching online. For instance, rather than relying on a teacher-centered classroom, educators need to design their online experiences around a stronger focus on their students andAllowing them to sustain a high level of engagement through active communication with each other. While many educators with experience in the brick-and-mortar classrooms are eager to tap into the successes of online teaching and learning, very few know where to begin. A gap exists between the intricacies of online learning and how educators can teach and facilitate effectively in this environment in order to enable student-centered teaching methods. Thus, a structured online teaching certification program will assist in bridging the loose ends andAllow educators to teach and communicate effectively in the online learning environment.

Before faculty can begin to hone their pedagogical and technical skills necessary to teach online, they need to possess foundational understanding of the tenets of online teaching and learning, including topics such as: overview of online teaching and learning, models of online course delivery, designing an online course, encouraging communication, technology tools for online teaching, and assessing student learning online. In addition, faculty need to be introduced to quality standards as well as available campus resources and services available.

In order to meet the Strategic Planning and Vision 2020 goals of Northern Illinois University (NIU) to offer significantly more online courses and online degree programs, many more faculty members will need to be trained quickly on online teaching, ultimately so that academic departments are able to schedule more course sections online. As new faculty are hired by the institution, including adjunct instructors who may be bi-vocational and working other full-time jobs, faculty training efforts need to be flexible and customizable to meet the individualized needs of the faculty.


NIU set out to design and develop an online teaching certification program offered by the NIU Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center targeting NIU faculty interested in gaining more experience in the principles and practices of online teaching. While previous online teaching experience is not necessary, it is recognized that some faculty will have had some past exposure to online learning environments. It is envisioned that prospective candidates should be able to achieve certification by accomplishing a structured set of highly interactive and engaging activities that will expose them to various instructional strategies for successful teaching in the online environment.

This project resulted in a set of interactive self-paced learning modules on online teaching, structured and offered in the form of a self-paced course, that NIU faculty can use to learn at their own pace and schedule. The self-paced model for offering introductory information accommodates faculty who can't attend in-person or commit to specific a specific timeframe for participation. Also, faculty who want to get started quickly can accelerate their learning. Furthermore, those with different teaching and technology expertise can begin with the self-paced training and then receive follow-up assistance for course-specific needs.

The modules, collectively referred to as, "Preparing to Teach Online" are structured as a self-paced online course and based on the current online teaching training offered by Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center. This self-paced online faculty development course and will serve as the first of 3-step approach online teaching certification for NIU faculty.

Core Topics (participants completeAll 6 in sequence)

1. Introduction to Online Teaching and Learning
2. Models of Online Course Delivery
3. Designing an Online Course
4. Encouraging Communication in Online Courses
5. Technology Tools for Online Teaching
6. Assessing Student Learning Online

Elective Topics (participants choose 3 after completing course sequence)

1.Social Networking
2. Advanced Content (eBooks, OER)
3. Presentation Tools
4. Blogs, Wikis, Journals
5. Mobile Learning
6. Groups
7. Web Conferencing

Technical Characteristics

* Modules are structured as a self-paced online course in Blackboard
* Presentations are viewable online as well as via mobile devices
* Course is accessible and mobile-friendly so faculty can choose to experience on a mobile device


* Initial synchronous online orientation via Blackboard Collaborate, archived and distributed as mobile mp4
* Self-paced presentations viewable online in Blackboard or as mobile mp4
* Self-test quiz at end of each topic to check for understanding and indicate completion
* Journal activity after Modules 3 and 6 to reflect on takeaways
* Optional discussion board for ongoing discussion
* Culminating assessment: Design document for an online course (completed in segments throughout modules or at end)
* Synchronous wrap-up session via Blackboard Collaborate, archived and distributed as mobile mp4


The project will result in significant benefits to NIU and some of them are listed below:

1. More faculty members will be trained quickly on online teaching than the current approach to train them through fixed training programs or spending funds to get them trained outside.
2. Self-paced learning modules will help faculty understand the time, effort and planning necessary to develop and deliver courses online compared to face-to-face delivery, and be better prepared.
3. Academic departments will be able to recruit more faculty members to teach online as a result of the self-paced learning modules on online teaching.
4. Academic support units such as Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center with limited resources will be able to use their resources more efficiently by focusing on course-specific online teaching needs of faculty and help them meet their needs better.

During this session, learn about Northern Illinois University's innovative faculty development initiative to offer introductory online teaching training via self-paced modules as an initial phase of comprehensive online faculty certification. An overview of the program will be shared as well as the design, development, and implementation phases of the project, highlighting lessons learned and tips for other institutions interested in pursuing a similar self-paced model for scaling their faculty development efforts.

Lead Presenter

I provide leadership and central coordination for the Office of the Provost on various aspects of online learning at NIU. I also work closely with my colleagues in the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center to address faculty needs related to online teaching.

With nearly 15 years of experience in the field of online learning, I have spent the past 9 years working closely with various units at NIU addressing faculty needs related to online teaching. I enjoy sharing my expertise designing and teaching online and blended courses with others.