COAT is dedicated to contributing to the advancement of knowledge in the field of distance education.  COAT was founded as the result of research conducted in 2008 and continues to conduct research on a regularly basis.  Research is at the core of everything we do!  The COAT course design and periodic modifications are based upon research and extensive evaluation data gathered from COAT participants as they progress through the course and at the conclusion of the course.  This detailed information informs course and program improvements, development of new training offerings, and development of alumni opportunities.

2012-2013 Research:

 K-12 Focus Group Study

COAT conducted a K-12 focus group study in order to determine whether K-12 educators felt the COAT course was applicable to them.  The focus group members were asked to review the COAT course and provide quantitative and qualitative feedback.  The group included members from the Maryland State Department of Education, several Maryland county public school systems and colleges, and COAT alumni from other states.  There was consensus among the group that the COAT course was, indeed, applicable to K-12 educators.  The group made several recommendations for minor modifications to the course which were subsequently implemented.  The group also noted that the diversity of participants (whether administrators, higher education professors, or K-12 educators), was a strength of the course and felt that each group complemented the learning of the other.

Dissertation Research of Dr. Julie Shattuck

Julie Shattuck's dissertation research, which was focused on COAT, concluded in spring 2013.  Her research included analysis of data gathered from COAT alumni which evaluated the impact of taking COAT on alumni’s later online teaching practice. The research showed that the COAT course impacted the practices of those who participated in the research study in a number of areas, including their online teaching practice as well as their face-to-face teaching practice.  Julie Shattuck'sdissertation is available for viewing at   

Survey of MarylandOnline Member Institutions

A survey of MarylandOnline member institutions showed that MarylandOnline member institutions were utilizing the COAT course to a much greater degree than previously thought.  Key factors influencing institutional use of the COAT course were, in order of importance (1) COAT's reputaion and quality, (2) convenience, (3) cost, and (4) opportunities for faculty members to network with other faculty members.

Research articles and publications:

Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration (Winter 2013 volume XVI, Number IV):  "Making a Match: Aligning Audience, Goals, and Content in Online Adjunct Training. ” Julie Shattuck, Terry Anderson.  Reports the findings of Julie's research study which focuses on who took COAT and why. The study explored the goals of participants who took the COAT course and identified strategies for designing training for a heterogeneous audience.

International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning (Vol 14, No 5 2013): Using a Design-Based Research Study to Identify Principles for Training Instructors to Teach Online.Julie Shattuck, Terry Anderson. Focuses on the impact of the Certificate for Online Adjunct Teaching (COAT) course on alumni's later teaching practice.  The study showed that COAT had an impact on the later online teaching and face-to-face teaching practices of those who completed it. The major outcome of this research study is the identification of design principles that can be used by other researchers and practitioners designing online instructor training.     


COAT re-visited 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 and/or course content. A second literature review showed no significant changes in online teaching competencies since COAT's initial research was conducted.

A detailed analysis of COAT course evaluations indicated 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.

2010-2011 Research

International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning (2011, Vol. 12, #2):  “MarylandOnline's Inter-Institutional Project to Train Higher Education Adjunct Faculty to Teach Online.”  Julie Shattuck, Bobbi Dubins, and Diana Zilberman.  IRRODL is a peer-reviewed, open source journal dedicated to the field of distance learning. This 32 page article gives a detailed description of the first two years of the COAT project, including research results from the pilot course which ran April-June 2010.


The pilot COAT course was conducted in the late spring of 2010. Sixty-five adjunct faculty members from 18 Maryland institutions applied to participate in the pilot course. Twenty faculty members from 10 MayrlandOnline 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 in the form of quantitative and qualitative surveys.  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.

2008-2009 Research

Year one of the COAT project 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 (later to be known as COAT).

Research results can be viewed at:

25th Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning, Madison, WI. “Training instructors to teach online: Research on competencies/best practices."  Paper presented at the  

Additional research is always being conducted.  Check back periodically for results!