Center for Teaching prepares faculty in the case of an online semester

The Online Course Design Institute is a two-week course for faculty designed to improve the online student experience.


Emery Little

The Center For Teaching’s Online Course Design Institute will be offered May 4 through Aug. 10.

Hunter Baxter

Although Vanderbilt hopes to have students on campus during the fall, the university is still preparing in the case of an online fall semester through the two-week Online Course Design Institute (OCDI) offered by the Center for Teaching (CFT)

“Designing courses that are adaptable enough to handle multiple possible formats and schedules is a challenge, but I’m thankful we have months, not just days, to meet that challenge,” Director of the CFT Derek Bruff said in an email to The Hustler. 

The Online Course Design Institute is being offered every two weeks from May 4 to Aug. 10. 75 faculty members have signed up for each of the first two sections and the CFT expects similar numbers for the other six summer sessions, according to Bruff.

“We have all been encouraged to take part in [OCDI], and I certainly will take part in that at some point,” Director of Undergraduate Studies of Theatre Phillip Franck said.

According to the OCDI website, the course itself has approximately 40 hours of content, but if the institute’s format does not work for faculty due to unique circumstances, the CFT is preparing to expand new and existing on-demand resources to accommodate.

“The institute consists of a mix of asynchronous and synchronous activities, with time built in for individual course planning and digital tool practice,” Bruff said.

In addition, institute participants will create one or more sample modules for their courses and plan strategies to help students learn. These strategies promote meaningful interaction, social presence and equitable learning despite the distance and challenges that Vanderbilt students might face, according to the OCDI website.

In addition to the OCDI, the CFT is advising the Office of the Provost and academic leaders around campus as they make decisions about the fall semester. Laboratory and performing arts courses, in particular, are more difficult to replicate compared to traditional courses, so the Center for Teaching is consulting lab directors and performance arts instructors to try to accommodate their particular needs, Bruff said.

Dr. Ibby Cizmar, Assistant Professor of Theatre Acting and Directing, said she plans on reaching out to the CFT to best utilize technology in order to teach her acting course in the fall semester.

“I am really going to have to sit down and think through what is going to be the most beneficial for [students],” Cizmar said.