Teacher Training in Higher Education

I started teaching at the University of Maryland University College (UMUC), a distance education institution, in the spring term of 2011. Someone from UMUC had emailed asking if I’d be interesting in teaching there in the spring of 2010. I followed up and following an interview, was given an adjunct appointment (adjunct instructor) in what was then called the School of Undergraduate Studies (now called the Undergraduate School). I teach in the mathematics and statistics group, mostly freshman mathematics courses such as finite mathematics, college algebra, and trigonometry.

When I started, before I could teach, I was given a five-week course on teaching online. This encompassed using WebTycho, UMUC’s homegrown distance education platform, and some pedagogical material about reaching online. But we were never really taught how to teach. Or, for that matter, why. This is not unique to UMUC. There’s very little teacher training in higher education. There’s plenty of research training, but very little teacher training. So we learn it on the streets. For those who know where to look, UMUC’s Center for Teaching and Learning also provides short (one-week) courses on time management, the adult learner, and dozens of other topics. I’ve probably taken about 10 of these, and earned two faculty workshop certificates from UMUC.

Given this, I am excited to see the the Commonwealth Education Trust, a British charity, is offering an 8-course program, through Coursera, to teach the business of teaching. The program covers student assessment, understanding curriculum, and professionalism, among other topics. The entire program, lasting more than a year, starts in August of 2013 and is available for free.