In almost any Canadian college or university, there are options for students to study online. Whether through distance education, the integration of ed-tech into the classroom or taking a blended learning approach like the flipped classroom, it can be beneficial to instructors like you to have knowledge of the online teaching realm.
Not only what course options are available to be developed, but how your role as an online instructor can be developed and assessed for improvement.
If you’re looking for new ways to assess and improve your own skills as an online instructor, check out the breakdown of the Online Teaching Competency Matrix below, developed by two Canadian researchers.
Developing Online Teaching Skills: The Research
Heather M. Farmer from Sheridan College and Jennifer Ramsdale from Fleming College decided to tackle this subject in their study on Teaching Competencies for the Online Environment.
As noted by Farmer and Ramsdale, the concept of competency-based education (CBE) has been around for decades. Competencies themselves can be described as a collection of behaviours that confirm the skills of an individual. CBE helps to:
- Determine activities or traits of a good instructor
- Provide flexibility in the speed of delivery
- Support individualized learning
In this study, the researchers reviewed existing literature to help develop the Online Teaching Competency Matrix, made up of five key areas: Community & Netiquette, Active Teaching/Facilitating, Instructional Design, Tools and Technology and Leadership & Instruction.
Each of the key areas is further broken down, with the help of Bloom’s revised taxonomy, into three performance levels: emerging, developing and proficient. This allows instructors using this method to assess their online teaching skills, determine where they stand in each area and how they can improve.
- Emerging Level: refers to remembering and understanding, basic knowledge needed by instructors in competency
- Developing Level: refers to applying and analyzing, instructors are proficient in emerging levels but also have experience and working knowledge of competency
- Proficient Level: refers to creating and evaluating, instructors show a high understanding and level of expertise in competency
Each of these skills can be found and described in the five online teaching competencies described below.
The Five Key Areas of Online Teaching Skills Development
Community & Netiquette
For this competency, instructors create a positive space for online learning, supporting students to develop their growth. An inclusive community is established where students are encouraged to interact, discuss and collaborate by following the lead of the instructor.
- Build list of participants and encourage netiquette through support of positive discussions
- Determine areas of course content that may lead to conflict, address poor behaviour on an individual level
- Create a student-centred space with authentic experiences while maintaining the privacy of students through established guidelines
- Have students share their learnings and knowledge with classmates while directing communications to ensure a safe learning environment
- Provide a behaviour model for students to encourage a safe learning space and teach communication skills that allow students to be able to resolve conflicts
- Encourage students to be responsible for their learning and promote true engagement through challenge and appropriate support
- Support student collaboration with team tasks, projects and conversation
- Create an online learning environment where students can safely exchange ideas through online communication in a supportive and authentic manor
- Show proficiency in managing conflict that may arise through teamwork and work with confidence to encourage engagement for individuals and groups
Instructors teaching for this competency are aiming to create a participatory space for students in an online classroom. Learners are kept on task through consistent interaction while being provided appropriate feedback and support, adjusting materials and assessing teaching strategies. Students have a larger sense of inclusivity between their instructors and their peers.
- Grading is made available for students
- Interaction is promoted through comments, online office hours and email communications, also encouraging one-on-one conversations
- Keep students on track with clear instructions and referencing appropriate learning resources for course content and by providing advice when asked by students
- Keep students interested by reducing amount of lecture style presentation
- Provide proper assessment and explanations to ensure student understanding
- Model and commend positive student discussions to help encourage and reinforce learner contributions
- Demonstrate patience and respect for students as well as understanding that they are learning the content
- Change lecture content to encourage students to take part in online environments and include chances to practice cognitive skills when presenting new content
- Promptly deliver feedback that is helpful and detailed
- Teach and model effective communication styles to promote meaningful interactivity among students
- Monitor and consider teaching and learning experience to synchronize and resynchronize your strategies used for teaching
- Assess your role as facilitator to ensure you are contributing the right amount to student discussion
- Support learning by providing content structure using scaffolding and layering of content