Curriculum design guidelines for professional development

From the data gathered throughout this project from staff, students and administrators, evidence was gathered to establish a set of categorised guidelines to inform the development of curricula for the professional development of novice online educators. However, when considering the context in which to apply these guidelines, educators, administrators and researchers are encouraged to note the two levels of influence in which the categories of these guidelines have been presented. The guidelines are intended to cross-link at the institutional and academic staff level, as illustrated in the figure below.

Cross linking figure

Cross-linking of guidelines recommended at the institutional and academic staff level

The set of categorised guidelines to inform the development of curricula for the professional development of novice online educators are outlined below within the following two categories: at the institutional level and at the academic staff level.

Curriculum guidelines for the design of professional development for novice online teachers
LevelProfessional development categoryCurriculum guidelines to inform development of professional development outputs for novice online teachers

Institutional level

Wide-scale recommendations across institutionsPolicies related to teaching and learning should:
  1. specify expectations that students enrolled in distance or online courses must portray an online presence through participation in online activities, completing and submitting assessment tasks and accessing course material;
  2. emphasise that lecturers should ensure that online and on-campus students require equitable (but not always exactly the same) opportunities to achieve the learning outcomes in a course;
  3. teachers should be given time and resources to practise online communication techniques using varied tools;
  4. state the expected timeframe within which students should expect to have their questions answered by their lecturers; and
  5. workload allocations should be scheduled for the design and preparation as well as the facilitation of online courses, noting that online teaching may take more time than on-campus teaching.
Support servicesInstitutional support services need to provide training to novice online teachers in why, how and when to:
  1. operate online communication software and tools;
  2. use online software and tools to manage students' assessment tasks and provide prompt feedback;
  3. meet the needs of both online and on-campus students within the same LMS course site;
  4. structure a course in an engaging manner;
  5. clarify instructions and expectations;
  6. engage in learning about the major barriers and breakthroughs that experienced online teachers have encountered;
  7. develop an online presence that does not dominate the online space;
  8. scaffold, guide and stage learning activities and processes.

Academic staff level

Preparation and course designWhen designing an online course, special attention must be paid to developing course components that allow for regular back and forth communication between lecturers and their students.
The components of an online course need to be aligned (learning outcomes, content, activities and assessment tasks) and these links need to be emphasised to students.
Online presenceMechanisms must be designed and put in place to enable the teacher to take an active role in facilitating online interaction and communication.
It is important for online teachers to inform students enrolled by distance or on-campus mode that, although their needs may be met in different ways by the course and the lecturer, both groups will be treated equitably.
Students have a diverse range of expectations about the skills required of online teachers whereas teachers' expectations of the skills they (teachers) require are less diverse and more pragmatic. This issue requires teachers to ensure there are opportunities to discuss teacher-student and student-teacher expectations of each other's roles during the course.
Teachers and students need opportunities to express themselves online in socially appropriate ways and in ways that they can engage in academic material that fosters deep learning.
The notion of online presence needs to be considered and fostered through online interaction. Teachers need to encourage self-regulation in their students and both teachers and students may need to develop an understanding that students can learn without the constant presence of teachers.
Interaction and relationshipsThe issues that students find to be important in online courses include: equity, prompt responses and feedback, use of authentic examples.The issues that teachers find very important in online courses include: equity, student independence and assessment submission.Sometimes the issues that students find important do not always align with what teachers find important (see Tables 9-11 for more detail).
Students' and teacher's expectations and preferences may differ in terms of the value of collaborative learning and group work tasks.
Online dialogue between students and teachers needs to be facilitated to ensure a shared understanding is developed between both groups about the purpose, frequency, nature and options associated with online contact between teachers and groups of students, teachers and individual students, and between students.
Students and teachers typically agree upon the value of online communication and the importance of using real world examples but there may be clashing expectations about how independent students are expected to be by their teachers compared to how independent students believe they should be in online learning contexts.