SUNY Online Teaching Course Templates
We have developed and provided online course “templates” since the 1996. They have always been informed by the practices and experiences of our SUNY campus online faculty and students, and as it emerged and evolved, have been supported by research findings that we ourselves conducted, or informed by the body of theory and research that has evolved over decades on andragogy, social constructivism, learner centeredness, learner self-regulation, self-efficacy, identity, the community of inquiry presences (social, teaching and cognitive), transactional distance, change, and innovation, etc.
Because we centrally led online teaching and learning in the early-mid 1990’s – 2006, we had the ability to provide research-based “templates” to quick start our growing system-wide multi institutional online faculty development and course design initiative, we had 100% adoption of these “templates.” The templates were always intentionally designed to create a solid effective and efficient online course design, and create consistency across courses in the network for navigability, find-ability, ease of use, centralized supports, and to ensure consistency for online faculty, students, and Help Desk support staff. Historically, our large-scale online production required that we develop ways to train large numbers of online faculty and produce large numbers of online courses of consistent quality. We avoided cookie-cutter mass production by working with individual faculty and allowing them and their content to drive the design of their courses, while maintaining a consistent look and feel. This also afforded us the unique opportunity to inform, influence and share best practices across the design of all online courses, faculty and instructional designers in the network.
The online course “templates” were also intentionally designed to be recommended, not required, flexible (editable by faculty), customizable, and coupled with our processes and approaches for training new online faculty, resulted in solid effective online course designs that met standards of online course quality and best practices that were continuously improved and updated. The “templates,” and our models and approaches, always intentionally respected and acknowledged faculty academic freedom. The “templates” simply provided a wrapper for a consistent look and feel for all courses, but how actual disciplinary content was presented, how activities were designed for interaction and collaboration, and how feedback and assessment were delivered, has always been entirely up to the instructor (or between the instructor and their discipline, department, or campus).
We have always provided, and continue to update and provide, guidelines and recommendations based on what we know and continue to learn about how people can teach and learn well online, but all academic oversight defers to the campus, and content and teaching decisions have always been up to the online instructor of record.
If any course today contains a Course Information area with a deconstructed syllabus of documents (such as Welcome, My Expectations, How you will be Evaluated, etc), has a Module Overview, or a What’s Due When document, an Ask a Question area, a Talk with the Professor area, a Class Community area, or notions of culminating course activities – these courses can trace their origins back to our original SLN “templates.”
We worked closely with 40+ campuses over the years, trained and developed thousands of online faculty in our centrally provided online faculty development program, and trained, mentored, and led hundreds of online instructional designers across the system over the years. This has resulted in a unique system-wide community of online faculty, and has resulted in an institutionalized and professionalized the role of the online instructional designer at SUNY.
You can see that our strong influence lives on in online course designs, faculty development activities, materials, practices and approaches at Herkimer, Monroe, FLCC, Niagara, Clinton, Jefferson, Rockland, Ulster, Farmingdale, FIT, Plattsburgh, Sullivan, Fulton-Montgomery, U Albany, Oswego, Broome, Nassau, Suffolk, Orange, and others (whether they know it or not – we are kind of the Sparks of the online world – often ahead of our time, and not everyone remembers/realizes that their roots are in us :).
As we decentralized and migrated to separate instances of varied learning management systems (first to Angel and then to Bb), naturally things changed and evolved.
Today most SUNY campuses have become self-sufficient in their online teaching and learning initiatives, and over time have evolved their own online faculty and course design approaches, models, practices. Those with roots in SLN have continued to adopt and adapt the process, models, approaches, materials and have evolved to meet their own unique campus contexts, initiatives, and needs. These contexts vary greatly and changes in staff over time also carry impact.
I would say that any campus that has inherited, evolved from the early SLN days, or adopted or adapted any version of our former or current “templates,” has adapted it in some way to make it their own “in-house” version to meet their unique campus context. Coupled with adapted approaches to online faculty and course development, online course templates may now figure in policies or agreements, or as part of the requirements for teaching online on some campuses.
SUNY Online Teaching continues to provide guidelines, recommendations, tools, materials, and supports to assist campuses, and online IDs and faculty with what they need, so that they don’t have to reinvent the wheel to develop well-designed research-based online teaching and learning environments, and have successful online teaching and learning experiences. Tools such as OSCQR, the Interested in Teaching Online? self-paced course, the online faculty readiness inventories, the remote online teaching checklist, and the templates we provide are all openly licensed and provided free of any charge for anyone to adopt or adapt to fit their own institutional or disciplinary contexts.