Understanding What’s Needed for Online Teaching Success

Larry Ragan, director of faculty development for Penn State World Campus, may have given a new spin to the old expression “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” Except, unlike the philosophical musing that’s become immortalized as one of those motivational posters, Ragan’s focus is on improving online learning.

“If faculty development activities are to be effective and truly prepare the online instructor (and therefore his and her students) for success, then we must know the skills and competencies required to achieve this desired outcome,” says Ragan

In the recent online seminar Online Instructor Success: What’s It Take?, Ragan discussed a new framework for defining the specific skills and competencies required for effective online teaching. The framework, known as the Competencies for Online Teaching Success (COTS), is based on Ragan’s personal experiences from the past 10 years, literature reviews, and expert video interviews.

These video interviews, in which Ragan asks online faculty to describe one core competency for online success, include advice on such things as the importance of understanding student needs, being persistent, embracing new technologies, and being organized. To view the videos, go to YouTube and search for “COTS world campus.”

Ragan’s research has uncovered nearly 100 competencies and behaviors of effective online instructors, which are organized into the following six broad categories:

  • Attitude/philosophy
  • Building community
  • Classroom administration/management
  • Faculty workload management
  • Teaching and learning
  • Technology aptitude

During the seminar, participants were given the opportunity to rank the categories in order of importance, and then Ragan shared his rankings which he based on skills needed for new online instructors, noting that perhaps they’d be different for someone with intermediate or advanced experience.

If you would like to rank the categories, or view all of the competencies, visit the Penn State World Campus faculty development Ning site by clicking here.