The "Certificate for Online Adjunct Teaching (COAT)" project was initiated in 2008 to fill a need of MarylandOnline member institutions for professional development opportunities for their adjunct faculty. It was such a success that it was expanded to include higher education and K-12 educators and administrators from across the United States and a number of foreign countries.

The Certificate for Online Adjunct Teaching (COAT) program is an inter-institutional program sponsored by MarylandOnline, which is a consortium of higher education institutions in Maryland. MarylandOnline is an inter-segmental consortium of Maryland colleges dedicated to championing distance education and enhancing the quality and availability of e-learning in Maryland and worldwide. 



In 2008, research conducted of Maryland higher education institutions showed there was a need for, and an interest in, a state-wide training program for adjunct instructors to develop online teaching competencies. Using data from the Maryland survey of institutions, and additional research of current literature in the field of online education, an online professional development course was developed that encompassed the major competencies needed in order to successfully teach online.

A pilot version of the course was conducted in the spring of 2010, with positive results.  Beginning in the fall of 2010, the course was made available to any interested adjunct faculty members, regardless of institutional affiliation.   Since then, full time faculty members, administrators, instructional designers, and K-12 educators from all over the United States and five countries have taken the course.

HISTORY Table of Contents

Research: Year One - 2008-2009

Year one was dedicated solely to performing research in order to (1) identify key competencies needed for effective online teaching, (2) determine interest in a state-wide training program for online adjunct faculty in Maryland, and (3) make recommendations for a possible state-wide professional development certificate course/program.

A research team was created that included seven members from seven institutions.

Research methods included

    1. a literature review of online teaching competencies
    2. a survey of 37 Maryland higher education institutions which gathered information about
      1. current training content
      2. current training delivery methods
      3. availability of training to full time and adjunct faculty
      4. potential interest in a state-wide online teaching certificate program
    3. a scan of the content and structure of 17 established online instructor training programs from across the nation

Research results included

    1. a baseline rubric of online instructor core competencies
    2. a "snapshot" of current training needs of Maryland institutions
    3. level of interest Maryland institutions had in a state-wide training program for online adjunct faculty

The research found there was interest in a statewide adjunct online teaching certificate.  The research results were used to develop a plan for the creation and delivery of an online training course for Maryland adjunct faculty members to learn how to teach online.

Course Development and Pilot Offering: Year Two 2009-2010

The goal of year two was to develop and pilot an online adjunct training course, evaluate it, and make recommendations for the implementation of the course on a larger scale.

An advisory board was formed which was comprised of representatives from 10 MOL member institutions. The advisory board provided input about the content, intended use, and structure of the course. 

Using the results of the research conducted in year one and information provided by the advisory board, an online adjunct training course was developed that addressed the competencies needed by online adjunct faculty. The course was developed by an inter-institutional team of six experienced online faculty members and instructional designers. All team members were well versed in the Quality Matters (QM) course design standards. The QM course design standards were used to guide the development of the course.

The course description and objectives are listed in the syllabus. Upon successful completion of the COAT course, participants have demonstrated competencies in eight major areas which are detailed in the "COAT Course Competencies" document.

The pilot course was conducted in the late spring of 2010. There was no fee for participating in the pilot course. Sixty-five adjunct faculty members from 18 Maryland institutions applied to participate in the pilot course. Twenty faculty members from 10 MOL member institutions were selected. Participants encompassed teaching expertise from multiple disciplines. Dr. Diana Zilberman, Director of Distance Learning at Baltimore City Community College, was the instructor for the course.

Extensive feedback from course participants was collected. Overall, feedback was positive, with most participants indicating they felt the course met their needs to prepare them to teach online. Most participants also indicated they would recommend the course to a colleague. When asked about the course format, most participants favored the nine week course format (as opposed to individually delivered modules). Participants also indicated they felt the instructor was a positive model for online course facilitation.

Since the number of participants was not statistically significant (20), no major course revisions were made based upon the data collected from the pilot course offering. Data from the pilot course offering will be combined with data from the course offerings in year three in order to inform decisions on course revisions.

Implementation: Year Three 2010-2011

The goal of year three was to determine if there was sufficient interest in the course, at the designated fee structure, for the program to become financially self-sustaining. Feedback was also collected from MOL member institutions regarding the value of the course and how it was being used at each MOL institution.

In the fall of 2010, COAT began offering the course to any interested faculty, regardless of state of residence or institutional affiliation. The fee for the course was set at $300 for Maryland residents (or instructors affiliated with a Maryland institution) and $600 for non-Maryland residents/instructors.

The original plan for year three was to offer one section of the course each in fall, spring and summer for a total of three sections. Actual demand for the course necessitated adding two additional sections of the course for a total of five sections.

Interest in the course was expressed from outside of Maryland as well. By the end of year three (June 30, 2011) 105 people from 10 states and 23 institutions had taken the course. In addition, several national distance learning organizations highlighted the COAT project (Distance Education Report and WCET Frontiers Blog - see "COAT News" link on the left menu), and an article about COAT was published in the International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning (a peer reviewed journal). COAT was also invited to make presentations at a number of conferences, including Sloan-C. (see "Conference Presentations" link on the left menu.) Clearly, there seemed to be an interest in the COAT program outside the MarylandOnline community.
Participants in the course also seemed very satisfied with the course. Course evaluations indicated that most participants

      1. felt the course met their needs to prepare them to teach online.
      2. would recommend the course to a colleague.
      3. preferred the nine week course format (as opposed to taking separate modules).
      4. felt the instructor provided a positive model on how an online course should be facilitated.

Expansion: Year Four 2011-2012

Year four of the project saw a number of important milestones. Enrollment increased by 116% over the previous year, with 190 participants taking the course during the year. Substantial interest by those outside the state of Maryland continued, with 54 people from 19 states of U.S. residence taking the course.

For the first time, COAT attracted participants from outside of the United States with the enrollment of 58 participants from Australia. There also continues to be interest in the course by institutions. In addition to 10 MarylandOnline member institutions that utilized the course, three non-MarylandOnline institutions sent multiple participants through the course. By the end of year four (June, 2012), participants from 45 institutions from 20 states and two countries had taken the course.

Course participants continued to include people from a number of different job categories. Since the first offering of the course in 2010, a total of 295 people have participated in the course. Of those, 45% were adjunct instructors, 25% were full time faculty, and 10% were instructional designers, faculty support personnel ,or fulfilled multiple roles at their institution (such as both faculty and instructional designers).

Year four saw COAT re-visiting the research which was conducted in year one (2008) in order to determine if there was a need to make changes to the course competencies/course content. A second literature review showed no significant changes in online teaching competencies since COAT's initial research was conducted. Therefore, no changes were made to the COAT course competencies. A detailed analysis of COAT course evaluations also showed no need for major course revisions.

Course evaluations continued to indicate strong satisfaction by participants. Of 79 participants who completed course evaluations between fall 2010 and fall 2011

      1. 95% indicated the course met their needs to prepare them to teach online,
      2. 93% indicated the course met or exceeded their expectations,
      3. 92% indicated the overall course objectives included what they wanted to study in order to prepare to teach online, and
      4. 91% indicated they would recommend the course to a colleague.

A number of participants provided positive comments in the course evaluation section. Some comments were

"The information I learned and questions that were raised in this course are going to have a long term impact on my teaching. I am very grateful."

"I was surprised about how much I didn't know about not just teaching online, but engaging students, assessing, and the overall design of a course...I cannot wait to implement this information into my class. Thank you so much for this experience!"

"It has been a very helpful and fun learning experience that leaves me with a thick folder of policies, procedures, and ideas. I am glad I took this class and I have already started recommending it to other adjuncts I know!"

COAT was invited to make presentations at the WCET conference and the Quality Matters conference, as well as conducting a national webinar for the Instructional Technology Council (ITC).

These promising results for COAT in year four indicated there was clearly a need for the COAT course. 

Continued Expansion and Research: Year Five 2012-2013

The COAT project saw another successful year in year five, with progress in a number of areas. 

    1. Increased interest and enrollment from states outside of Maryland (and the U.S.)
    2. Completion of a number of research activities

      1. Research on affect of the COAT course on alumni's later teaching practices. (Research was conducted by Dr. Julie Shattuck as part of her doctoral dissertation studies.  Dr. Shattuck's research, which focused on COAT, showed that the COAT course had an impact on the research group's subsequent teaching practices, both online and face-to-face. See "Research" for full details and a link to the research results.)
      2. Exploration into K-12 education - Focus group study conducted with K-12 educators from several states indicated the COAT course was applicable to K-12 educators.
      3. Research of MarylandOnline member institution's use of the COAT courseA survey showed that MarylandOnline member institutions were utilizing the COAT course internally to a much greater degree than previously thought.  Key factors influencing institutional use of the COAT course were COAT's reputaion and quality, convenience, cost, and opportunities for faculty members to network with other faculty members.  
      4. Survey of Maryland institutions and COAT alumni on interest in additional training topics
    3. The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) approved the COAT course for three contining professional development (CPD) credits for licensed Maryland K-12 teachers to apply to re-certification requirements.
    4. Interest in development of an additional course for continuing education instructors was expressed by one MarylandOnline member institution.

Year five of the COAT project showed a continued interest in the COAT project outside of Maryland.  Of the 176 people who took the course in 2012-2013, 82 were from states other than Maryland (47%).  Several of those were from countries other than the United States (Australia and France).  Year five also saw a marked  increase in the number of institutions represented.  In year 5, participants self identified as being from 15 MarylandOnline member institutions (compared to 10 in the previous year), 14 non-MarylandOnline member Maryland institutions (compared to five in the previous year), and 17 out of state instititions (compared to 10 in the previous year).

That brings a total of, since inception, participants from 69 institutions in 21 states and three countries who have taken the course (including 19 of 20 MarylandOnline member institutions).

Interest in the course continued to include those from various job categories, with adjunct instructors still our number one market segment (42%).  The next largest job category was full time instructors (28%).  Those two job categories comprised 70% of total COAT participants.  There was an increase in enrollment of adjuncts from 34% to 42% and a decrease in enrollment of full time faculty from 33% to 28%.  Other categories had no significant changes.

Course evaluations continued to indicate strong satisfaction with the course.

COAT was invited to present at a number of conferences, including the Maryland Consortium of Adjunct Faculty Professional Development (MCAPD), the Association of Faculties for Advancement of Community College Teaching (AFACCT), the Maryland Distance Learning Association (MDLA), the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA), and the College Teaching and Learning 24th International Conference.

Finally, COAT was included in the American Productivity and Quality Center's (APQC) "Best Practices in Recruiting, Hiring, and Preparing Faculty for Blended Education Models" study.  The study was sponsored by the University of Southern California's (USC) Rossier School of Education.  COAT was one of four organizations included in the study; University of Phoenix, University of Central Florida, Western Governor's University, and COAT.

Plans for the next year include continued exploration into K-12 and continuing education, development of additional training offerings, consideration of offering the COAT course for college or continuing education credit, and possible changing of the COAT name to more accurately reflect its clients.



Year Six 2013-2014