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A student takes advantage of the drop-in study lab of the Academic Resource Center

Office of Online Learning will launch new undergraduate courses this summer

The Office of Online Learning is working with UGA faculty to plan and implement a new online format for high-demand undergraduate courses. Instructional designers in the Office of Online Learning and in the university’s schools and colleges are partnering with the Center for Teaching and Learning to assist 36 faculty during the spring semester to have 34 new online courses available in the summer.

For the past decade, online courses across numerous disciplines, particularly graduate courses, have been available for UGA students in OASIS (the Online Access to Student Information Systems).

These courses have been developed independently by faculty members to provide an alternative format outside the traditional classroom setting. Until now, there has not been a single source of support for faculty who wish to provide an online course.

Recognizing changing technology trends and the way in which today’s students learn, the university has made increasing student access to courses through online education a top priority, as outlined in the UGA 2020 Strategic Plan and in UGA’s 2012 Complete College Georgia Plan in partnership with the board of regents. With the establishment of the Office of Online Learning in July, the university has taken giant steps in providing a comprehensive resource for support and assistance for faculty who want to offer courses online for students.

“In many ways, the individuals involved in this process are helping UGA define standards and processes that will become associated with online course and program development, helping to build a community of support,” said Kris Biesinger, interim director of the Office of Online Learning.

The high-demand undergraduate courses will include a variety of subject areas such as English, Romance languages, mathematics, biology, geography, poultry science, education, business and family and consumer sciences.

Training for faculty began Dec. 5 with an orientation workshop outlining expectations and goals of online learning. The training staff emphasized the importance of consistency of organizational structure within the online classes to allow a more seamless learning experience between multiple courses. Faculty also were trained to adhere to accessibility guidelines such as creating style sheets and capturing descriptions for video.

Faculty will be able to use existing creative mechanisms to actively engage students in the learning process. Video and audio options provided within the eLearningCommons, and other tools like Wimba and podcasts, will create an interactive format to aid faculty-student communication throughout the course. Faculty also are encouraged to work with the Center for Teaching and Learning to produce introduction videos so that students can put a face to a name.

As required for on-campus classes, faculty still will be required to have office hours. The format of the most convenient and accessible method of communication will be left up to the faculty and student. Some may choose to set up Skype or chat sessions, while others may opt for telephone or face-to-face meetings for local students.

Their accomplishments and interests are evidence of the quality of the 36 participating faculty members. Many faculty have a number of years of teaching experience, have received teaching awards and recognitions and have online teaching experience from one semester to 11 years. They have expressed a variety of reasons for wanting to participate in the inaugural formal training, including wanting to learn new teaching methods through instructional design and wanting to be more responsive to student issues.

The Office of Online Learning will continue to work with faculty this semester to provide workshops, consultations and training support, as well to guide faculty through the development and teaching process using instructional design. Training will become available after spring semester to any faculty member interested in developing an online course. Support for the development of a select number of online graduate programs will begin as early as summer 2013, with proposals accepted until Jan. 23.