With the growth of online education over the past two decades, online instruction has become a core teaching and learning delivery method in higher education, especially at Sam Houston State University. Since online education is a different medium for teaching and learning, faculty must employ different strategies when teaching an online course.
Transitioning to teaching online can be a challenge for faculty who have only taught in face-to-face formats. However, at Sam Houston State, online classes are designed with the same outcomes and same academic rigor as on-campus classes. Here, faculty approach teaching with the same intent and determination as they do in the classroom, bringing their expertise to students locally and nationally.
“Besides the coursework, what sets SHSU Online apart from other universities is the caliber of faculty training,” according to Todd Primm, director of the Professional and Academic Center for Excellence (PACE). “Before any faculty member can teach online, they must go through an intensive three-day, evidenced-based training.”
Faculty who are good instructors need to think about how to translate what they do into an online setting and that is the strength of the training program.
“Our mission is faculty development and helping faculty improve their teaching: all faculty, all courses, all kinds of teaching."
– Todd Primm
“We want our faculty’s online competencies to match their subject expertise,” stated Ruth Chisum, executive director for online education.
To ensure faculty successfully transition to the online realm, SHSU Online partners with faculty to
deliver course content in engaging ways. “We peripherally work with SHSU Online because their mission is very similar to ours and they understand principles of quality teaching,” Primm said.
“All of our faculty are content experts, they know how to best teach their discipline, but getting that extra layer of training to get all of the best practices that work well in the online environment is key,” said Christopher Maynard, vice provost at SHSU.
One advantage to the online programs at SHSU is that instructional designers are embedded in specific disciplines at each college. “This is such a valuable relationship and one that we are constantly shaping,” Chisum said.
“Whether it be criminal justice, business or education, they are well-trained to support and collaborate with faculty and actually design their course, because placing a course online is not just about videotaping the instructor, it is about adapting and connecting,” Primm said.
Online programs at SHSU reflect the distinctive characteristics of the faculty, student community and the university to ensure that students feel they belong to a campus community. The online programs at SHSU capture the essence of what it is like to be a Bearkat. While the strength of the SHSU brand plays a part in attracting students, faculty personalities and skill, along with the rigorous course content that Sam Houston State is known for, is what makes SHSU Online a great name in education.
“We like to teach the faculty different learning methods they can employ online to recreate opportunities that naturally occur in a classroom.” Chisum said. “Things like collaboration, communication, co-creation of content and more. All of those activities build a sense of community online.”
“That is what we want the student to feel when they are in an online course. We want them to feel connected to the SHSU experience. We don’t want anyone to feel the distance between them and the institution makes them any less of a Bearkat and that starts with helping the faculty to create a great experience for those online students,” Chisum added.
To date, more than 250 faculty members have been certified to teach online and the numbers keep growing, reflected in the fact that 25 percent of all credits earned at SHSU are earned online.