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Teaching Online at UCLA Extension

Teaching online entails delivering instruction through an internet-based learning environment using a range of digital learning tools. At UCLA Extension, online learning is facilitated by expert instructors with years of experience in their subject areas. There are two main approaches to online learning: synchronous and asynchronous. Synchronous learning involves real-time engagement via live chat and webinars. Asynchronous learning leverages the time-delayed capabilities of Canvas, our Learning Management System (LMS), using presentations, threaded discussions, file sharing, and other activities that students complete on their own time. Most online courses at UCLA Extension utilize asynchronous learning to give students and instructors the convenience of collaborating and interacting with each other in any time and place.

In close collaboration with program departments, UCLA Extension’s Office of Instructional Design and Learning Support (IDLS) supports online instructors through every stage of the teaching experience:

  • When instructors join UCLA Extension, they receive an orientation through the Instructor Development Program (IDP). UCLA Extension offers IDP workshops and roundtables to all new and continuing Extension instructors. Since its inception in 1984, more than 10,000 instructors have participated in this award-winning program. 
  • New online instructors are enrolled in Canvas Training: Guided Course Build, a training course  facilitated by our instructional designers. In it, instructors experience Canvas from the student perspective and become familiar with the features of this flexible learning environment. By the end of this training, instructors have built the basic structure of their course and the first two weeks' worth of content.
  • The IDLS Learning Support Team manages and provides phone/email support for technical issues for students and instructors, investigates technical and content issues in Canvas, and assists departments in course administration.
  • The Academic Media and Technical Development team facilitates the development of instructional media through UCLA Extension’s video communication/presentation tools Panopto and the IDLS production studio, and provides support for integrating new media and technologies for teaching and learning.

Why Teach Online?

  • Accessible to a community of learners and instructors around the world
  • Better Outcomes - Research shows increased understanding and retention
  • Convenient - Course content available 24-7
  • Diverse populations of adult learners
  • Enhanced Opportunities for professional development and peer engagement
  • Flexible hours for teachers and professionals across a wide range of industries
  • Generating new ways of teaching and learning

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the instructor’s role in an online course?

In an online course, the instructor facilitates instruction and provides direction to students as they proceed through the course. An online instructor’s role is facilitative; much of the information that will be provided to students are presented in the form of online resources and activities, such as readings, video lectures or presentations by the instructor, linked online media (e.g., videos or podcasts), online quizzes, discussion, and/or assignment submissions.

How is online teaching different from traditional classroom teaching?

Online teaching allows for more flexibility of time for both students and teachers. It does however, require a different approach for communicating with students than traditional teaching in a classroom. That is why engagement and facilitation by the instructor and having assignments that connect students together are so important. Developing the online course environment requires a different kind of attention to how the course is designed, how the instructional materials are presented to the students, the substance and frequency of communications between students and with the instructor, and how activities and assignments are aligned with the course objectives and learning outcomes. 

With online courses, students who might ordinarily be “quiet” or sit in the back of the class may feel more comfortable contributing, and likewise be more engaged because they have the opportunity to think through their responses before submitting them. Online courses also include features for how assignment submissions can be received, as text documents, linked files, media recordings (like video or audio clips), among others. This provides online instructors with a range of options for imaginative and creative assignments, designed to engage students in a variety of ways.

Do I need to be a computer expert?

While instructors do not need to be an expert in using technology in order to teach online, instructors should have a basic foundation in digital and information literacy. Penn State University’s website provides a useful online assessment for instructors (or faculty) to check their readiness for teaching online: https://weblearning.psu.edu/FacultySelfAssessment/

UCLA Extension’s Instructional Design and Learning Support unit provides new instructors with training and professional development opportunities for learning about educational technologies and how they can be used for instruction.

Canvas Training: Your Guided Course Build

All new instructors complete an initial “training” course (two or three weeks in duration) designed and facilitated by the IDLS instructional designers. In this course, instructors assume the role of the student and receive information about how to get started with building an online course, developing and populating their course syllabi, and learning how to develop a robust and engaging online course. Instructors who have successfully completed the training course will have a fully populated syllabus, a modular structure for the course, and the first two modules fully populated with instructional content.

Instructor Development Program (IDP)

The Instructor Development Program provides instructors with opportunities for gaining professional opportunities for instructors who teach at UCLA Extension. These include a quarterly orientation for new instructors, as well as regularly scheduled workshops and roundtables. These workshops supplement and expand upon the foundations established in Canvas training. For a list of current and upcoming scheduled workshops, please visit: http://uclaextension.libcal.com/calendar/idp-workshops. Questions about the Instructor Development Program can be directed to idp@uclaextension.edu.

Learning Support

The IDLS team of learning support specialists provide live technical support and resolution for issues that instructors or students might encounter while courses are running. Learning Support Specialists can be reached via telephone at 310-206-4563 or by email at support@unexonline.zendesk.com.

How long does it take to build a course?

Course development time is very hard to estimate, since it depends on many factors. If you’re building a course from scratch, it can take months to plan your outcomes, devise assessments, and assemble/create the course materials. Our instructional designers can meet and work with you to figure out what can be accomplished in time for your class, and provide some assistance in helping you plan for and develop your online course.

How can I tell if my course is designed appropriately?

Course Design starts with a Syllabus with clear objectives and outcomes. Objectives are your goals and outcomes are the measurable evidence that the goals have been met. You can create activities and assessments to demonstrate that these outcomes have been achieved. A Final Project is an example of an outcome and you can break that assignment up with its component parts for individual assignments during the term.

The basic guidelines are as follows:

  1. Each week or unit has its own module
  2. Each module has an overview (summary) page and at least one page of lesson material
  3. Each module has some interactive elements:
    • An Assignment, a private submission to the instructor
    • A Discussion, a forum for sharing responses with the class and for peer-learning among students
    • A quiz, to assess or evaluate student progress and/or mastery of concepts and ideas

A good practice is to include in your course an entrance and midterm evaluation survey to gather feedback and information from your students to recalibrate your instruction. Instructional designers are available during and after Canvas training for consultations on the design of your course.

How much time do I need to spend in my course?

The time spent teaching an online course will vary. However, instructors should plan to check into the course periodically each week during the quarter, and should respond to student messages within 48 hours. As a best practice, instructors should also plan to actively participate in course discussion boards throughout each week in which they are assigned.

How do I ‘lecture’ online?

There are multiple methods in which students can receive their academic materials. Instructors may provide a written block of information within a content page or upload multimedia files. An effective way to present students with their academic materials is through captioned video. Instructors are encouraged to create video lectures using Panopto where visual aids (e.g., presentation slides, video clips, etc.) can be presented simultaneously with webcam media. Unlike in-person lectures, video lectures should be short (around 7 minutes) and highly focused. Using the “Conference Room” feature in Canvas, you can connect and interact in real-time (i.e., synchronously) with your students. Here the instructor or student may start a live session, which can be recorded for later viewing, and present information to your students through screensharing, Powerpoint presentation, or webcam.

The IDLS team is available to walk you through the setup and operation of these programs and can be reached at support@unexonline.zendesk.com or by phone at 310-206-4563.

How do I record audio and video content?

While there are several tools available to create audio and video content, at UCLA Extension we have deployed a video platform called Panopto, which we have integrated into Canvas. Panopto makes it easy to record video presentations or add video to your existing slide presentations. Using Panopto is an easy and effective way to enrich your course content from anywhere. Please visit this article for a Quick Start Guide on using Panopto: https://unexonline.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/115001506424.

Using my own computer?

You can record your content with Panopto using your own computer from almost any location. All you need is a computer with the Windows or Mac OS operating system, a microphone, webcam (most laptops purchased within the last few years will have the necessary components). For better results set up your recordings in a quiet location with minimal background noise.

In the IDLS Production Studio?

If you would like to make use of the recording booth you can schedule an appointment by sending a message to support@unexonline.zendesk.com. Use of the recording booth is subject to consultation and approval of use. Some of the benefits of the studio include sound dampening, lighting control, and access to a teleprompter.

Can I conduct a live session?

A “live” session is often referred to as a “synchronous” session. These synchronous sessions happen in real-time, either through a web conference or through a webcast. For web conferences, tools are available in all Canvas courses offered through UCLA Extension. These tools allow you to be able to “meet” in real-time (i.e., synchronously) with your students from your computer, and you’ll be able to show your students video of yourself through your webcam, present slides, and/or share your screen.

Creating discussion boards while prompting students to reply to one another is just one way to promote collaboration. Another way to increase student engagement might be to use student groups for small group assignments or activities. Canvas, our institutional learning management system, includes many features that can be used to increase student engagement, including options for personalized learning and automated feedback. Please reach out to the Instructional Design and Learning Support unit to set up an appointment for a consultation with one of our instructional designers or sign up for Instructor Development Program workshops to learn more. 

What can I do to add a more personal presence to my course?

Welcome announcements that include a Panopto video allow students to hear from/see crucial information on a more intimate level. Live lectures through the Conferences tool, which can be recorded for later viewing, also give a sense of instructor presence, which helps to communicate to students that they are supported in their learning experiences.

How do I collect assignments?

Assignments are submitted for instructor evaluation and feedback through Canvas, the learning management system. Instructors can use the Gradebook in Canvas to enter assignment grades, view the overall progress for individual students as well as the entire class, and provide feedback or comments on individual assignment submissions and discussion board posts. 

How do I conduct exams?

Canvas includes features for developing and administering online quizzes and surveys and can be set up to be graded or ungraded. Canvas Quizzes provides options for multiple choice, true/false, matching, and open-ended responses, and quizzes can be further customized to suit your teaching style. Your program department may have additional information about examination requirements if applicable.

How do I contribute to an active learning community?

Instructors can sign up for workshops through the Instructor Development Program. A full list of IDP workshops can be found here: http://uclaextension.libcal.com/calendar/idp-workshops. For more information, please send a message to idp@uclaextension.edu.

Additionally, instructors can join the UCLA Extension Instructor Group on LinkedIn. The UCLA Extension Instructor Group features news and networking opportunities for UCLA Extension's community of instructors. It includes articles about UCLA Extension people and programs, as well as notices about upcoming events for Extension instructors, staff, and students. It's a great way for our instructors to stay engaged with both the institution and each other.

Is taking a class online easier than a "regular" class?

An online class is not easier than an in-person class. Many students actually say that they spend more time with their online courses because they are posting responses and reading others' postings, in addition to completing assignments and reviewing course readings and media. Also bear in mind that students may need some time to become familiarized with the structure and rhythm of the course, as well as navigating and interfacing with the learning environment.

Where do I go for help?

  • By email: support@unexonline.zendesk.com
  • By Phone: 310-206-4563 or toll free in the U.S.: 866-269-7289 (Monday-Friday, 7:00 AM - 7:00 PM, Pacific Time)
  • During other hours of the day and night, and on holidays, Canvas Support is also available 24 / 7 / 365 by clicking on "Help" from the Canvas login page

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