Academics and Research / News

DU faculty retooling for online teaching

Online teaching isn’t new. But, it’s conventionally been targeted toward nontraditional students or used when a professor couldn’t be in the classroom.

DU’s Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) has a different approach. Through a pilot program, they’re helping professors set up online courses for traditional undergraduate courses. The idea is that students are looking for options, and online classes can achieve high quality and be very interactive.

“There’s a misconception that students are less engaged in an online course,” says Bridget Arend, associate director of instructional development at the CTL. “Our feedback from students in this pilot is that because of the small class sizes and frequent interaction, students often feel a better connection to their classmates and professor in an online setting.”

Mike Keables says he felt his students were a lot more active in his online course than in a standard lecture.

Keables, DU’s associate dean of natural sciences and mathematics and an associate professor of geography, was one of the first faculty members at the University to participate in the pilot program.

He taught Environmental Systems I — an introductory meteorology course — online. 

“Online courses take a lot more prep time for faculty up front,” Keables says. “But, that time investment improves each time you teach the course.”

Keables also wondered if his students would do as well. He’s found students in his online courses perform the same as his students in class. He gives comparable exams, so he can gauge whether students understand the material.

The CTL offers a three-week course to help professors prepare for online course. Naturally, it’s online so professors can learn from doing.

“The Teaching Online Workshop provided me with an excellent foundation for what it takes to develop an effective online course,” Keables says. “It also challenged me to think differently about how to present content and keep the students engaged in the learning process.”

The online course Keables developed from the workshop ended up winning a national award from Blackboard — a Washington, D.C.-based software maker — that recognizes best practice in online course design. Keables’ award was announced at the Blackboard World Conference in Las Vegas in July.

“It’s a nice recognition of my effort and the help I received from the CTL,” he says.


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