The Distance Learning Institute continues to shepherd virtual teaching

By Life@TheU

The Distance Learning Institute continues to shepherd virtual teaching

By Life@TheU
Johnny Orr, assistant director of the Distance Learning Institute, discusses his team’s role in helping faculty members to create dynamic online courses for students.

Among the units that helped the University transition online, the Division of Continuing and International Education’s Distance Learning Institute (DLI) continues playing a key role for faculty members, many of whom are teaching online for the first time. Being no stranger to the venue, the DLI has spearheaded online course development for more than a decade. 

Now, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the unit has launched an online course development series that will continue to help train more than 1,200 faculty members who instruct more than 17,000 students.

We connected with Johnny Orr, assistant director of the DLI, to better understand how this new series will support teaching in a digital space and how faculty members can benefit from participating. He addressed our questions.

How did you choose the topics for the courses? 
Our DLI team represents several decades of collective instructional design experience, including training design, online teaching, and course development. Each member of the DLI team brings their skills to the forefront of their course development. When faced with our current situation, we openly discussed what we felt our faculty would need to know in order to succeed in an online educational environment. Once we determined what information would be essential to supporting their work, we developed the DLI Online Course Development Series to provide information sessions that would fit the needs and schedules of our faculty. Some of the topics covered include navigating Blackboard, principles in multimedia design, and fostering community and engagement in online classrooms.

What is one thing all faculty members should know about teaching remotely?
Focusing on what you really wish to accomplish makes the delivery of your course much easier. Sometimes we, as educators, can get hung up on how things will be delivered to the student instead of thinking about what we want the student to get from the lesson. By considering the objectives first, versus the technology being used, the remote teaching experience can be much more rewarding.

How can faculty members receive one-on-one assistance?
Even during this time, we try to accommodate one-on-one consultations. By contacting johnnyorr@miami.edu, our team can pair a faculty member with an instructional designer who can walk through issues and queries regarding the delivery of content within the online learning environment. If an instructor has more standardized questions, there is a convenient link within the Blackboard launch page that will assist.

What are resources that instructors can access between sessions to further develop their courses?
Some of the best resources are available within the tools we are using. I suggest visiting Blackboard Help and the Zoom Help Center to master the basic functions before attending a  DLI sessionwhere participants can discuss how to apply these tools effectively in their classes. In addition, IT’s academic continuity guide provides a wealth of resources.

What are some of the biggest hurdles for instructors? 
One of the biggest challenges is determining how to facilitate common face-to-face activities like turning in assignments, presenting group work, and taking tests in the online environment. DLI instructional designers are available to discuss options for a successful online student experience. This can be as simple as walking through how to set up an assignment to developing comprehensive group assignments that address multiple objectives.

What advice would you give to those still uncertain about teaching remotely?
To quote the topic of one of our senior instructional designers, Nick Armas, “don’t panic!” We are all here to help you get through this challenging time, and we are happy to work with you to make online courses highly engaging and successful.

The ongoing DLI Online Course Development Series will continue through Friday, May 8. Find a full list of courses and topics on the new website and register to participate in any of the ongoing training sessions. Custom sessions can also be built and tailored specifically to the needs of a school or college. For more information, contact Orr at johnnyorr@miami.edu


Division of Continuing and International Education

Division of Continuing and International Education