Learning to Teach Online: My IDL Experience

From Lissa Pompos Mansfield—

This summer, I had the opportunity to participate in the Center for Distributed Learning’s IDL 6543 course, which prepares faculty for online and mixed-mode teaching through a combination of readings, discussions, assignments, seminars, and consultations. I found the entire IDL 6543 experience valuable not only because it provided me with resources and feedback to develop and revise my teaching materials but because of its unique course design.


Most faculty believe that students learn best by doing. The facilitators of IDL 6543 agree: the course is designed to provide faculty with the dual perspective of students learning in an online environment as well as instructors teaching in an online environment. Each week, I engaged with student-facing IDL modules within which was a “Build Your Course” activity, which asked me to apply the strategies I learned by designing my own online content as an instructor.


During Week 6, for example, I read about various tools that have been successfully incorporated into online courses (e.g., digital textbooks, screencasts, adaptive learning modules) and was encouraged to develop an online activity for my own course that leveraged the power of at least one of these tools. In response, I designed an online discussion where students used rough drafts of their literature reviews to create word clouds to visualize the conversations about their topics. This kind of activity, while possible to recreate in a face-to-face classroom, represents one of the many benefits of teaching online: the ability to use readily available online tools to support more traditional learning activities (such as discussions). This is just one instance where I got a chance to not only see successful online teaching strategies modeled but to practice those skills. In other words, IDL 6543 allows faculty to learn by doing.


Another valuable feature of IDL 6543 was the amount of support I received. At the beginning of the course, I was paired with instructional designer Tina Calandrino. Not only was Tina a great resource because she connected me with other faculty and support staff, she also talked me through my course plans and provided feedback based on her experience working with faculty members from our department and other colleges across campus. Through our consultations, Tina helped me create a banner for my course, run the UDOIT tool (to make my course content more accessible), add pages to my introductory module, and more.


In addition to this personalized level of support, IDL 6543 introduced me to other CDL support offices, including CDL graphics, CDL Video, and the Learning Systems and Technology team. These offices create graphics, videos, games, and online content that faculty can use to support their learning objectives.


One final opportunity IDL 6543 provided for support came in the guise of the course’s culminating event, the final showcase.  During my presentation, I shared one of the eight modules I developed this summer and received another round of helpful feedback—this time from my peers, other instructors from across campus taking IDL 6543—that I can use to revise my online content. The IDL support system is invaluable to instructors who are preparing to embark on a mode of teaching with which they have no experience.

If you are interested in teaching an online or mixed mode course, I highly encourage you to sign up for the IDL 6543 waiting list. For more information about the IDL course, visit: https://online.ucf.edu/teach-online/professional-development/idl6543/


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