California State University, Hayward, is offering a new certificate program in online teaching. This online, four-course, 18-unit program is offered to educators and trainers who want to develop virtual classrooms via the Internet or networks. Each course lasts for five weeks. The program may be expanded into a 45 unit Master's Degree in online teaching in the near future.
The classes are asynchronous; students can log on at any time. Students communicate through e-mail messages that are sent and stored in public "meetings" or folders. Other students and the facilitator/instructor read and respond to these messages. Students learn from the textbook, articles provided by the instructor, their own research, and from the perspectives and research of fellow students. Students are also expected to participate in group projects, such as collaborating on a group paper.
The first course is an introduction to online teaching and its components: the facilitator, students, technology, curriculum, and the balance between these elements. Subsequent courses focus on the technology used in teaching online, teaching models, and curriculum design.
One of the philosophies behind the courses is that online instruction is very different from on ground or face-to-face teaching, making additional training necessary. Most instructors will not be able to take a traditional lecture-based class and simply put it online. The role of the instructor and the presentation of material are radically changed in an online environment. Students take more responsibility for their learning and participate more actively in the learning process. Instructors act as facilitators, guiding the discussions rather than lecturing. Approaches in administration, access to library resources and other support systems may also need to be altered to meet the needs of distance learning students.
California State University, Hayward, is a four-year university with 12,500 students. It offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees. The online teaching courses are conducted through Convene International Inc., a provider of online distance education services to many universities, including the University of Phoenix, The University of Alaska, and Johns Hopkins University, to name a few. Convene will assist in faculty training, course conversion, network set up, technical support, and other services. Web-based or real time learning is also available.