A Journey Toward Online Teaching and Learning

Updated: Mar 11, 2018

Tracy Smith

Appalachian State University


I had to do it. Enrollments in teacher education were dwindling, and as program director, I was feeling the heat: increase enrollments or risk administrative program cuts. I was told that delivering the program online might be the answer. The emerging business model for higher education asserted that online degree programs increase enrollments and reduce costs (Bach, 2007; Davidson-Shivers, Savenye, & Rasmussen, 2012; Rubin, 2013).


Still, I was reluctant. I knew how to teach in brick and mortar classrooms, with movable furniture, white boards, handouts, projectors, and the occasional shared snack. In my view, I used technology to enhance my teaching, not replace it. My teaching evaluations showed that my students appreciated the interactions, the sense of community, the relationships built and the learning enjoyed in physical classrooms. Online teaching was a new frontier for me. I was uncertain that I could be effective or that students would learn as much. I was skeptical that the relationships I could build and facilitate in online classrooms could be as rich. In my teaching, I depended on students’ reactions, body language, nuanced cues, and sentient facial expressions. I needed to be in touch with their humanity. And yet, I was also worried about dwindling enrollments and the implications of those decreasing numbers. We might lose faculty positions. We were definitely facing a statewide teacher shortage. Who would teach the next generation of public school students if teacher education enrollments continued to decline so rapidly at institutions across the state? How could we invite more great people into teaching? Maybe we could leverage online spaces to make our program and our profession more accessible. I was willing to try.


Trying to be proactive, I wrote a small grant to get support for my program faculty. What was propose