Learning to Teach Online – a great new resource

by Andy Polaine on October 28, 2010

in General

COFA Online has just launched an excellent new resource for lecturers getting into online teaching and learning. I have taught in several other institutions in Europe since I moved back in 2006, but the work being done at COFA Online is lightyears ahead of anything I’ve seen elsewhere. It steers clear of being trendy, while staying on top of changing trends. The focus is on high quality teaching and learning, not on technology for technology’s sake.

With nearly half a billion people on Facebook and blogs, Twitter and Wikis so dominant in the media, you would think all of this is obvious, but it’s not. I know many faculty feel pretty daunted and overwhelmed by the prospect of teaching online and it’s often a challenge to re-think many years of experience teaching face-to-face. I also know many who see the technology as a quick, cheap fix, which it is not. Teaching online well requires a lot more care, planning and attention to pedagogy than face-to-face teaching.

(Me talking about managing time online – my wife will be laughing)

I have been lucky to have been part of the early development of COFA Online at UNSW for over 11 years now. In the early days, Rick Bennet, Leon Chan and I used to sit in Leon’s kitchen and discuss how our three courses were running. Only three courses? Yes. The reason being that we wanted to iterate the process and make our mistakes on a small scale before expanding the course numbers. Bear in mind that this was during the dotcom boom when many institutions were throwing up hundreds and thousands of “courses” online without much care for the user interface or pedagogy.

Since then, the COFA Online folks have expanded those kitchen table chats into a far more sophisticated set of strategies and methods for mentoring staff through the process of developing an online course as well as supporting their teaching. And they now have over 1,000 They have been working hard on an Australian Learning & Teaching Council project for a some time and have just gone live with the first batch of episodes from their Learning to Teach Online Project.

From Simon McIntyre and Karin Watson who have masterminded the project:

The project is designed as a free professional development resource for teachers from any discipline worldwide. It aims to help them better understand online learning and teaching, and to help them get starting in developing their own online teaching practices – a necessary skill in today’s changing society. Episodes contain a video to introduce and discuss issues and ideas, and a PDF that people can download to read about the issues in more depth.

The episodes contain interviews with academics from many different disciplines and institutions around Australia and the UK. There are contextual videos discussing topics related to online pedagogy and practice, case studies that feature specific examples of best practice, and technical ‘how to’ style videos to help teachers get starting themselves.

The number of episodes will continue to grow and diversify over the next few months, and we would really appreciate your help in spreading the word about the project. In the future we’d also like to feature more COFA Online teaching, once we have finished all of the episodes we are committed to make for the ALTC.

These are but the first of many more video and PDF episodes that will released over the coming months. These episodes were made with the assistance of the Creative Development unit at Learning and Teaching, and use UNSW TV as a distribution point, pushing the content to:

You can also watch the content on mobile devices such as phones and iPads on the Gateway website.

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