Higher Education Course

The Certificate for Online Adjunct Teaching (COAT) program provides online professional development for online educators - college, K-12, continuing education, corporate, and government.

Teaching online is different from teaching in the traditional face-to-face classroom.  Without adequate preparation, online educators can easily become overwhelmed.  Balancing technology, new teaching strategies, and online collaboration requires a new set of skills.  COAT can help you learn those skills.

The course was originally designed for higher education adjunct instructors (hence the name).  However, full-time instructors, instructional designers, college administrators, and K-12 educators also find the course to be extremely valuable. 

See what some COAT alumni have to say about the course.

Are you a K-12 educator? - Learn more about how the course applies to teaching K-12 students.


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Course Description

The course explores online teaching and learning by introducing online learning principles and instructor competencies. Participants will experience online learning from the students' perspective as they explore and master specific competencies needed in order to successfully teach online. Major topics covered include

COAT 8 Competencies image

  1. The importance of, and strategies for, orienting students to the online learning environment
  2. Basic instructional design principles as applied to the facilitation of online courses
  3. Self assessment of technical skills and learning management system skills
  4. Pedagogical approaches to teaching online - Teaching and learning theories, strategies, and best practices
  5. Establishing social processes and presence - Creating a positive learning environment, building a learning community, and engaging students in the online classroom.
  6. Facilitating online discussions and group work - Encouraging peer-to-peer learning and collaboration
  7. Managing assessment - Maintaining assessment integrity, establishing/implementing appropriate testing strategies, creating and using grading rubrics, etc.
  8. Important legal issues (FERPA, ADA, and copyright) - Student privacy, accommodating students with disabilities, understanding copyright law as applied to online course materials
  9. Identifying important policies, procedures, and support services at your institution - What you need to know about your institution before teaching online

To view the detailed course and module objectives see the COAT Course Competencies.


  1. This course is intended to introduce instructors to teaching (facilitating) an online course that has already been developed.  This course does not train faculty how to develop an online course.   
  2. The course is taught fully online
  3. The course is nine weeks long
  4. While opportunities to participate in synchronous activities during the course are provided (optional course orientation and webinars), they are not required

Course Prerequisites

Experience teaching in the traditional (face-to-face) classroom is strongly recommended.

Basic computer skills. To evaluate your computer skills, take the "Computer Skills Inventory" self-check quiz. At a minimum, you must be able to

  • Browse the Internet using browsing software
  • Save, find, and organize files and folders on your hard drive
  • Send and receive files using email
  • Use word processing software (Microsoft Word or compatible)
  • Note: Computer skills are not taught in the COAT course. If you are lacking basic computer skills, you should reconsider taking the COAT course until you have acquired those skills.

A sincere interest in learning how to teach online. If you aren't sure whether you are a good candidate for teaching online, please view "Are You a Good Candidate for Teaching Online?"


About the textbook

Effective Online Teaching image 

 Stavredes photo

Dr. Tina Stavredes


In order to enable the widespread adoption of online education, faculty must be trained in the pedagogy of teaching in this medium. This book offers an understanding of how cognition and learning theory applies to an online learning environment. Through behaviorist, constructivist, and cognitive approaches it provides strategies for incorporating this knowledge into effective learner-centered teaching practice. Each chapter contains reflection and discussion questions which can be used for self-directed learning. It is ideal for new instructors or those new to online teaching.


What the textbook author has to say about the COAT course

View the video!



  • $325 for those employed by a MarylandOnline member institution
  • $500 for Maryland residents or those affiliated with a Maryland institution
  • $600 for non-Maryland residents/instructors

Frequently Asked Questions

How is the course conducted?

The course is nine weeks long and is taught fully online. This gives participants an opportunity to experience an online course as a student. (This has, in fact, been an important strength of the course as identified by COAT alumni.) The course is highly structured and includes requirements to complete weekly activities, assignments, and readings, as well as interaction and collaboration using the course discussion board and wiki. Participants must log into the course at least three days per week. Estimated weekly time commitment is six to eight hours. While opportunities to participate in synchronous activities (webinars/Internet conferencing) during the course are provided, they are not required.

Is college credit awarded for the course?

College credit is not awarded for the course. The course is intended to be a structured professional development activity for teaching professionals. Participants who successfully complete the course will receive a "certificate of completion" from MarylandOnline. Completion of this course in no way guarantees participants they will receive an offer of employment by any institution or be exempt from specific training requirements of individual institutions.

If you are a K-12 educator licensed in Maryland, this course is approved for 3 continuing professional development (CPD) credits from MSDE.

What is covered in the course?

The course is intended to introduce participants to principles and practices for teaching online college courses. The course is not intended to teach participants how to develop an online course. For a complete list of the topics and objectives, see the syllabus and the  "COAT Course Competencies."

What are the standards used for the course?

The course was designed using the Quality Matters standards. A formal QM course review was conducted in 2012.  The course met QM review standards at the 100% level.

    September 2015 course start date note yet set.

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    View the COAT  syllabus

    View the COAT Course and Module Objectives

    The Certificate for Online Adjunct Teaching (COAT) is an in inter-institutional project. Content for the course is based upon research conducted by a team from seven different higher education institutions.  Based upon this research, the course was designed and developed by a team of experienced online instructors and instructional designers from six different institutions.

    Over 700 instructors/professionals from 33 states, 111 institutions, and 9 countries have taken the COAT course since we first began offering it in 2010.  Feedback from COAT alumni has been overwhelmingly positive, with more than 90% of COAT respondents indicating the course met or exceeded their expectations and they would recommend the course to a colleague (A large number of those enrolling in the course indicate they did, in fact, enroll in the course because they were referred by a colleague who had completed the course.  High praise, indeed!)  Most COAT "graduates" also indicated the course covered the topics they wanted to study.

    COAT has been featured in articles by a number of organizations, including the Distance Education Report, WCET (The Wiche Cooperative for Educational Technology), and the "International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning" (IRRODL). (See the "Articles" page for details and links to the articles.)

    COAT has presented at numerous distance learning conferences including Sloan-C, the University of Wisconsin at Madison's Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning, Quality Matters®, the Maryland Consortium for Adjunct Faculty Professional Development, the Instructional Technology Council (webinar), and the Maryland Distance Learning Association. For a complete list see our Conference Presentations.  See the "Conference Presentations" page for more information.

    To learn more about the research conducted by COAT and how COAT is contributing to the distance learning community, see our "Research" page.