Teaching Technology


MCLA students who opt for an online class get much more than a course on a computer: They are being taught by faculty specifically trained and certified to teach in this medium.

Earlier this year, the College instituted an online training program for faculty who want to expand their traditional classrooms to cyberspace. To date, nearly a quarter of MCLA faculty have been certified to teach online through the online course, "Taking Your Course to the Next Level."

According to Web Communications Manager Amy Stevens, who teaches the class, "We are doing everything we can to provide the highest quality online education that's available."

Stevens, who earned her master's degree in teaching with technology from Marlboro College Graduate Center in Brattleboro, Vt., said students - especially those in MCLA's Fast Track program - are asking for more online classes. In addition to the adult learners enrolled in Fast Track, a growing number of traditional students want to take MCLA classes while they are home over the summer break.

"In order to meet the needs and the expectations of our students, we want to not only provide online classes, we want to be able to provide the faculty with the training and the support that they need to be able to make the transition from a face-to-face class to an online course," she said.

Psychology professor Peggy Brooks said she participated in the training to see for herself whether an online course could hold up to the quality of those she teaches in the classroom.

"I really saw how these class conversations on the discussion board tab could be even better than those in a face-to-face class, giving students a chance to think about the question and have ongoing dialogue about an issue without worrying about class dynamics and self-consciousness in the way some do in a face-to-face class," Brooks said.

Political science and public policy professor Petra Hejnova said she loved the experience.

"I had never taken an online course as a student, and taking an online course on how to teach online courses was the best way to figure out how to go about this effectively. Plus, it's always fun to be on the other side of things - a student as opposed to an instructor - even if it's just for a short period of time," Hejnova said.

History professor Frances Jones-Sneed also found the course to be very helpful. "It taught me how to organize the content so that it was more accessible for the students."

And, having fellow faculty members share their tips and ideas was inspirational, according to Brooks. "My favorite part of taking the training was participating in all the discussions and reading what other faculty would say about a teaching issue," she said.

Computer science professor David Eve agreed.

"I find value in the types of questions and challenges that my colleagues raise. It is through their questions that I can gain a better understanding of their perceptions of technology," he said. "It is helpful to see how others adapt the technology to meet their needs. There are a lot of great ideas out there!"