The Top 10 Faculty Challenges for Teaching Online


Here’s your chance to hear from one of the most respected authorities in online education as he explains how to help faculty successfully transition to the online classroom.

Dr. Lawrence C. Ragan is director of faculty development at Penn State’s renowned World Campus. He has decades of distance learning experience and unique perspectives on the issues faculty face. Dr. Ragan is also the codirector of Penn State’s Center for Online Innovation in Learning, a research and development collaboration designed to inform and inspire the best in education.

In The Top 10 Faculty Challenges for Teaching Online, he provides a balanced, well-informed look at where faculty struggle in the online classroom and what you can do to help.

In a content-rich 60 minutes, Dr. Ragan examines:

  • Establishing a teaching presence
  • Working with a different classroom dynamic
  • Managing time
  • Dealing with a more diverse group of learners
  • Maintaining quality
  • Coping with technology
  • Faculty accessibility
  • Course construction

It’s information that’s important not just for those designing and supporting online courses, but for faculty and instructors seeking to make informed decisions about their own forays into online teaching.

Interview with Dr. Larry C. Ragan:

Distance Education Report: When faculty members share their concerns about the challenges of teaching online, what typically comes to the top of the list?

Ragan: Sometimes it’s not so much what they ask but what they don’t ask! The questions they ask tend to be around questions of workload, system capabilities, and what they’re “allowed and not allowed” to do in the online classroom. I think the other more challenging dimension of teaching online may be revealed only once you’ve had some online experience. In other words, it’s hard to know what you don’t know.

One area that presents the most challenges revolves around the changing “nature” of the educational exchange, if you will. The teaching and learning dynamics can be fundamentally changed in this space, and that can be difficult to anticipate until you’ve had some practice.

The second area, and it’s related to the dynamics point, is how the instructor is “present” in the online classroom. These questions related to how I represent myself as both a teacher and a human being in this new learning space.

Distance Education Report: Could you give us a preview of the advice you will be giving when discussing one of these challenges?

Ragan: Thinking creatively around both of these issues can be both challenging and invigorating! Many online instructors go through a process of “transforming” from one delivery environment to another. One of my common pieces of advice has to do with allowing yourself the chance to learn in the online classroom and not have over-the-top expectations the first or second time teaching. Relax a little and enjoy the experience!

Distance Education Report: Some issues—such as legal and technology—are dynamic and always changing. Are there any challenges that have stable solutions that don’t change much from year to year?

Ragan: Stable solutions in an online environment seems like an oxymoron, but it’s a really good question because it highlights the need to base your teaching on sound pedagogical practices that, frankly, have not changed over time! The principles of good teaching still apply. We care about our learners and their success in our classrooms. We provide the leadership of the educational event so that learners heve a reasonable opportunity for success, given they provide the effort! We need to be in tune with the rhythms, flow, and progress of the learning.

How we approach the online classroom is the same as how we might approach the face-to-face classroom in many aspects. In other aspects, there are fundamental dimensions that are unique because of the operating parameters of the online classroom, and we need to be open to and master those as well!

This seminar is now available on-demand or on CD. Whichever format you choose, you’ll also receive the complete transcript and all supplemental materials.

An optional Campus Access License is available for an additional $200. It allows the purchasing institution to upload the CD of the seminar onto the institution’s password-protected internal website for unlimited access by the entire campus community.

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