Training and Mentoring: Redefining the Online Instructor
Kathleen Ives, Sloan-C Events Coordinator
For-profit institutions have changed the ways we define learners and instructors. A learner no longer is simply an individual enrolled in an educational institution, nor is an instructor solely an individual whose chosen occupation is teaching. The for-profit concepts of learner and instructor encompass the notion of client. In other words, the for-profit institutional goal lies not just in offering a product (curriculum) to learners meeting only the highest of standards. Recognizing the impact learning has on performance, for-profits also offer a product (continuous learning) to instructors enabling them to facilitate at equally high standards.
Now, more than ever, for-profits recognize the importance of instructors’ contributions to the organizations’ performance, in particular, the retention of that other ‘valued’ client: the student. To that end, institutions such as the University of Phoenix, for example, ensure the instructor (as client) possesses the best possible tools and resources.
At the University of Phoenix, a continuous learning model begins once an individual passes a rigorous selection process. The instructor-to-be must attend a four-week, mock online workshop as preparation for facilitating an online course. The workshop mirrors an actual class, and requires potential instructors to interact in the classroom in much the same way students interact.
Each week’s curriculum builds on the prior week, and training includes an overview of grading policies, working with students who might not possess English as a primary language, designing syllabi, and preparing lectures. As part of the process, the individual evaluates an online course currently in progress, and provides constructive feedback on that course. The individual submits a first lecture and syllabus for the course s/he has been designated to teach.
After successful completion of the workshop, the University of Phoenix assigns a mentor (another faculty member) to work with the instructor in his/her first teaching assignment. The mentor reviews all the instructor’s material in advance of the material being posted in the online classroom, including the syllabus and lectures. The mentor also reviews all graded papers and feedback offered to students. The mentor assesses the instructor upon completion of the course. Only if the instructor passes the assessment will the individual be invited to teach again.