The Teaching Academy for Distance Learning (TADL) was created to provide faculty with a formal certification process. This process also helps faculty develop quality online courses. The program format was initially a 47-hour, 3-part training course for Southern Polytechnic State University (SPSU) faculty. This program began in the fall 2008 and mostly focused on technology tools and their use in instruction. As part of an ongoing quality improvement process, TADL has continued to enhance the online learning capabilities at SPSU.
The program’s dependency on a particular software has decreased as the program has evolved. The Instructional Design Unit (IDU) has worked with faculty in the development of online courses across academic disciplines. Their balance between pedagogy and technology allows minimal changes in the program format as new technologies emerge. Key to the program is the team-based approach. This approach brings in expertise from instructional design, instructional technology, as well as digital media.
The TADL program is housed within the faculty-driven Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE). The CTE has explored a broad range of teaching and learning activities. It has built strong relationships across campus. Faculty value the CTE and their partnership helps validate the activities of the Teaching Academy for Distance Learning.
TADL evolved from a single face-to-face only program into three versions: face-to-face, online, and blended formats. Within the program, faculty from across campus are brought together to build online courses as well as discuss issues related to online learning. This has created a community of practice around online learning. This community supports informal learning networks within the institution and has allowed for growth in online learning.
TADL is not just a faculty development program. It is a truly hands-on program that allows faculty to learn new skills and acquire knowledge to design, develop, and deliver quality online courses at SPSU. Some of the components of this course include: weekly meetings (face-to-face or online), multimedia-rich learning modules, and interactive learning objects that address different learning styles. This course also includes assignments that allow faculty to apply their newly acquired skills. While completing the course, participants in TADL have full access to a diverse team of instructional designers, digital media specialists, and an instructional technology specialist.
Upon completion of TADL, all of the newly developed courses were sent out for external review. These reviews were completed by instructional design professionals working in the field. This process resulted in a 100% pass rate for the 5 years that TADL has been offered. As the program matured, it went from an informal process to a more formal review of the course objectives, modular objectives, and course alignment. This review includes a Subject Matter Expert reviewer from each participants’ department.
Course components are developed during the TADL program and feedback is given to participants as they progress. This continuous review, in combination with the external review of the developed courses, provides multiple opportunities for feedback.
TADL was developed for several reasons. First, single workshops and short term training sessions were not valued as significant professional development for faculty. Second, there was a demand for a more in-depth exploration of online learning and course development. Since developing TADL, this program has become recognized and supported by several deans and department chairs who insist that new hires go through this program. They also insist that the department adopt some of the practices that TADL instills in its participants.
The TADL instructors’ practice aligns with the pillars of “Faculty Satisfaction”, “Learning Effectiveness”, and “Scale”. Faculty are empowered by the TADL experience and develop a support network with their peers. This allows for continuing discussion and learning outside of TADL. TADL is now offered in multiple formats (Hybrid, Fully-Online Instructor-led, and Self-Paced) to accommodate faculty schedules and learning preferences. Many of the resources for TADL are re-used between formats. As a result of the TADL experience, some departments have developed standard templates for their courses that have unified the student experience throughout their academic program. SPSU instructors exhibit learning effectiveness because after the successful completion of TADL, participants can continue to develop quality online courses that constantly improve based on the available technologies.
Many of the resources necessary to build this program would already exist at most institutions. We have made use of a classroom equipped with computer stations and common university software. Infrastructure required includes the learning management system, as well as a desktop/web conferencing solution.
We provide a small stipend ($1,000) for TADL participation and departments often pay the faculty for the development of the course built as part of TADL, with the amount at the department’s discretion. This amount is often roughly the amount adjunct faculty are paid to teach courses.
An extensive description of the program, along with videos and TADL materials are available online at: