For the Cumberland Times-News
CUMBERLAND — Just a few short years ago, the idea of receiving a college degree from courses completely taught online was unheard of. Today, it’s becoming the norm.
In Western Maryland, one instructor has helped pioneer the movement, introducing first an online course in watercolor painting at Allegany College of Maryland where she is a development instructor to helping launch a successful statewide teaching program that has gained respect of educators nationwide.
When Bobbi Dubins first began teaching online, she thought it would be a convenient method for students to learn about a particular subject. She never thought in less than 10 years, she would be spearheading and then directing a statewide program to teach other teachers how to best utilize the methods of online learning.
In 2008, Dubins and six other college instructors and instructional designers statewide began a discussion on forming a program that would teach online teachers. Dubins and other members of what would later be called the Certificate for Online Adjunct Teaching project met when they all were involved in a statewide educational group and discovered a need existed for more instructional opportunities for online instructors.
The group approached MarylandOnline, a consortium of 20 colleges and universities in Maryland well known for its innovation, about sponsoring research to “determine the feasibility of creating training opportunities for instructors to learn how to teach online,” said Dubins, the co-founder and project director for the Maryland based Certificate for Online Adjunct Teaching program.
In 2010, the first version of the course was introduced with positive results. To date, nearly 450 people from 22 states, two countries, and 48 institutions have taken the course, including 58 instructors from Australia.
The course — now simply referred to as COAT — is nine weeks long and is taught fully online.
“Many instructors cite this as one of the most important aspects of the course,” said Dubins.
“Although the course was originally designed for college adjunct instructors, full-time instructors, instructional designers, administrators , and K-12 teachers have also found the course to be valuable,” she added.
And five years into the program, the results are beginning to show. In fact, Dubins and her colleagues have been asked to lead presentations about COAT at numerous educational conferences. Dubins frequently presents at Maryland conferences and has appeared at conferences in Colorado, Wisconsin, Florida and Arizona. She will be presenting at the United States Distance Learning Association conference in St. Louis on Monday.
“The positive comments we receive from those who have taken the course are nothing short of inspiring. Many instructors ask what we are going to do next. We plan to offer more advanced training on several of the current course topics,” said Dubins, regarding the future of the academic program. “There is a lot to do — online education moves quickly — but we are up to the challenge.”