PENN STATE OFFERING GRAD STUDENTS A COURSE IN ONLINE TEACHING
This fall, Pennsylvania State University will offer graduate students a chance to perfect their online teaching skills. Though Penn State offers an online teaching program, The Graduate Student Online Teaching Certificate will be tailored specifically for graduate students’ learning needs. An online class itself, it will be offered to any and all Penn State graduate students as a free, voluntary addition to their coursework. The creators of the course were hoping to recruit about 30 students for the pilot program, but 350 students have signed up so far.
— The course, which is grounded in online education research, will provide specialized training for graduate students on how to deliver effective online instruction. Director of Online Faculty Development Laurence Boggess said the course is important for graduate students for a few reasons. First of all, online instructors need a different set of skills than face to face teachers, he said. In an online classroom, teachers need to do more to encourage and support student engagement. They also need to be deft in managing message boards, comment feeds and online interactions between students. Finally, online teachers need to be able to add an element of personality to their classrooms – Boggess said one of the most common criticisms of online education is that students feel they don’t know their teachers.
— The course could also further students’ careers, Boggess said. “What we also know is [students] want this certificate so they can be more competitive in the job market,” Boggess said. He added that Penn’s online graduate program is ranked very highly. “That’s a pretty cool feather in your cap,” he said. In addition, Boggess said the course will aim to Penn State’s graduate students more effective teachers for its own online programs.
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