Step 3: Work in a Team

Please begin by reading Tony Bates post on Step 3: Work in a Team.

Key Points and Summary

Why work in a team?

For many instructors, classroom teaching is an individual, largely private activity between the instructor and students. Teaching is a very personal affair.

  1. Online learning is different from classroom teaching. It requires a range of skills that most instructors, and particularly those new to online teaching, are unlikely to have, at a least in a developed, ready-to-use form. In particular, the way an instructor interacts online has to be organized differently from in class, and particular attention has to be paid to providing appropriate online activities for students, and to structuring content in ways that facilitate learning in an asynchronous online environment. In particular, good course design is essential to achieve quality - student performance as good as if not better than for classroom teaching. These are pedagogical issues, in which most post-secondary instructors have had little training. In addition, there also technology issues. Novice instructors are likely to need help in developing graphics or video materials, for example.
  2.  Work in a team is to manage workload. It can be seen that there is a range of technological activities that are not normally required of classroom instructors. Just managing the technology will be extra work if  instructors do it all themselves. Also, if the online course is not well designed, if students are not clear what they should do, or if the material is presented in ways that are difficult to understand, the instructor will be overwhelmed with student e-mail. Instructional designers, who work across different courses, and who have training in both course design and technology, can be an invaluable resource for novice online instructors.
  3. Working with colleagues in the same department who are more experienced in online learning can be a very good means to get quickly to a high quality online standard, and again can save time.
For many faculty, developing teaching in a team is a big cultural shift. However, the benefits of doing this for online learning are well worth the effort. As instructors become more experienced in online teaching, there is less need for the help of an instructional designer, but many experienced instructors now prefer to continue working in a team, because it makes life so much easier for them.

Who is in the team?

For an online course with one main faculty member or subject expert, they will normally work with an instructional designer. Also some institutions a librarian is an important member of the team, helping identify resources, dealing with copyright issues and ensuring that the library is able to respond to learners’ needs when the course is being offered.

What about academic freedom? Do I lose it working in a team?

No. The instructor will always have final say over content and how it is to be taught. Instructional designers are advisers but responsibility for the course always remains with the faculty member. However, instructional and web designers should not be treated as servants, but as professionals with specialized skills. They should be respected and listened to. Often the instructional designer will have more experience of what will work and what will not in online teaching.


Working in a team makes life a lot easier for instructors when teaching online. Good course design not only enables students to learn better but also controls faculty workload. Courses look better with good graphic and web design. Specialist technical help frees up instructors to concentrate on teaching and learning. What’s not to like?

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