Online Learning @ Penn State

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Several members of the Institute are involved in a variety of online learning initiatives across Penn State.  One committee that I sit on is the Penn State Online Coordinating Council.  In a nutshell, we're trying to help shape what the future might look like 5 to 10 years down the line for online learning here at PSU.  We recently analyzed faculty data across four semesters (fall 08, spring 09, fall 09 and spring 10) and found a few interesting pieces of data that will require some discussion and further exploration.

  1. In fall 2008, 319 instructors taught an online course.  Compare that to spring 2010, where 529 instructors taught an online course (~65% growth).
  2. Over this time period, 784 unique instructors taught at least one online course. As a reference, in fall 2010 Penn State employed 5,706 faculty across the entire system.
  3. Probably one of the more intriguing statistics, just over 18% of the 784 instructors teaching online courses never taught a face-to-face Penn State course between fall 2005 and spring 2010.
The hard part?  I don't have any norms to compare that 18%.  Is this typical that nearly 1 in 5 online instructors never taught a face-to-face course?  Another confounding variable is that we only have access to PSU data.  Some of these instructors very well might be teaching face-to-face courses for a non-PSU institution. 

The primary question this leads to is:
'Should online instructors have face-to-face teaching experience?'

My instincts tell me the answer is yes, but I don't have any research to back that answer up at the present. When we consult with people in the Schreyer Institute, we consistently state 'good teaching is good teaching', whether it's a class of 10, 50, 500, online or blended.  Of course differences do exist depending on your context, but many good teaching practices can be carried across contexts and delivery mechanisms.

What about you...do you think online instructors should have some sort of face-to-face teaching experience or benefit from face-to-face experience? 

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