Professional Development for Teaching Online  

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In recent years computers and the Internet have been made available to schools (Becker, 1999). Teachers and administrators have been trained in the basics of technology use. However the mere inclusion of technology in schools is not sufficient (Coley, Crandler, and Engel, 1999). How technology is used to enhance the studentsí learning is what matters (Merisotis & Phipps, 1999). We believe that full use of technology in schools will require additional professional development aimed at creating technology-using teachers who will join the online revolution that is rapidly altering almost every aspect of society except education. This article describes a program that is focused on enabling teachers to create rich online learning environments so that their students will learn more.

While technology offers much promise for education, achieving this potential requires teachers who are skilled users of technology. According to a recent report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 99% of all full-time teachers now have access to technology in their schools, and two-thirds of the teachers report using technology for classroom instruction. Despite these figures, two-thirds of the teachers indicated they are not well prepared to use computer and Internet technology.

In North Carolina teachers have been trained in technology use through mandated professional development activities. Learn NC has traveled to all 117 school systems in North Carolina to offer hands-on training in technology use to over 30,000 teachers. Great inroads have been made into arranging access to technology in schools and in preparing teachers in basic technology use. The next step is to help teachers move beyond the basics of technology use into teaching online using technology.

In order to improve student learning through enhanced technology use in schools, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education in conjunction with its Learn NC program has created and is offering a program for K-12 teachers to achieve advanced competencies in Internet based online teaching methodologies and technologies. This program is called Carolina On-Line Teachers or COLT. The first group of teachers participating in the COLT program began in June, 2000. The emphasis is on teaching in an online environment, not just the technology itself since it is effective teaching that matters (Yelland, 1999; Lyman, 1998). The principle benefit from this program will be enhanced educational experiences of K-12 students and increased learning gains.

The COLT programís goal is to prepare a cadre of lead teachers to provide effective instruction in the 21st Century virtual classroom environment. A related goal is to provide a means to assure that K-12 students in online courses receive high quality instruction. The program of study places a premium on relevant, practical application of Internet technology as a tool for engaging students in learning (Kearsley and Shneiderman, 1998). Participants in the COLT program will explore the full potential of this emerging technology for education. Upon completion of this program, teachers will have developed effective courses or segments of courses that incorporate appropriate use of technology for online delivery.

The five courses in the COLT program and instructional goals for each course are shown in Figure 1.

Figure1. Courses and Goals in the COLT Program

EDUC 110 Overview of Online Learning

EDUC 120 Models for Online Learning

EDUC 111 Design and Development for Online Learning

EDUC 130 Online Teaching Tools

EDUC 306 Practicum

      identify factors affecting online learning

      select appropriate online teaching formats

   select appropriate online teaching formats

   locate online resources to support learning

   design online learning courses incorporating interactive multimedia

      recognize advantages and limitations of online learning

      use instructional techniques appropriate for online learning

   apply learning theory and instructional design principles to online learning

   use tools for creating online learning environments

   create instructionally sound web sites

      determine requirements for successful online learning

      locate online resources to support learning

   describe student considerations in online learning

   create instructionally sound web sites

   create synchronous and asynchronous learning environments

      describe student considerations in online learning

      evaluate online learning resources

   locate online resources to support learning

   evaluate online technology and teaching tools

   implement and manage online learning courses

      design online learning courses appropriate for different content areas

      evaluate online technology and teaching tools

   evaluate online technology and teaching tools


   communicate effectively in an online learning environment

      develop plans for teaching social, ethical, and legal issues and responsible uses of technology

      design online learning courses appropriate for different content areas

   design online learning courses incorporating interactive multimedia




      communicate effectively in an online learning environment




The program is designed to be completed within an 18-month period. Cohort groups will be established each year. While the COLT program can be completed entirely through the School of Education at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, participants in the COLT program will have options for taking appropriate courses at other universities. Suggested courses at several universities are provided for participants.

As Rodenburg (2000) indicated, online learning requires more than providing access to information. Throughout this program, the faculty will model appropriate technology use. Each course will be taught via interactive online learning techniques. Course Web sites will lead participants through learning activities designed to achieve course objectives. Discussion forums and streamed media will engage participants. Some face-to-face orientation and interaction may be required depending on the specific courses selected by the participant. Course instructors will be expected to model the strategies that participants will eventually use in their online courses. This support with technology integration and instructional strategies has been shown to be an important aspect of professional development (Sherman, 1998).


Participants will gain an awareness of online teaching skills, techniques, and curriculum design from a student's perspective. The practicum will require participants to develop an online course. Participants will experience hands-on practice utilizing various technological tools and models as they develop course materials for online delivery.


While the primary emphasis is on knowledge and skill related to online learning, the COLT program will not ignore participantsí attitudes about technology use in education. Selected readings will explore issues of technology use, including educational effectiveness, ethics, legal, and social issues, from different points of view. Participants will have ample opportunity to examine online learning "up close" as they experience it as well as study it. This will serve to demonstrate North Carolinaís technology competencies for teachers. As a result, we anticipate teachers will begin to make more effective uses of technology in their classes in order to improve learning.


Teachers who have completed the COLT program will be available to assist their colleagues with technology use. Specifically, teachers completing the COLT program will have an obligation to mentor at least two colleagues who will be future program participants. This will ensure a continuing effect from the program and will hasten the spread of appropriate technology use in North Carolina.


Once they have completed the program, certified Carolina On-Line Teachers will have the opportunity to offer their K-12 courses, or in-service teacher training modules, to students and teachers throughout the nation via the Learn NC Web site. Teachers who create and offer on-line courses or workshops through Learn NC may be eligible for distance learning instructor status at in the UNC-CH School of Education and be compensated appropriately. We believe that the COLT program meets the professional development challenge of preparing teachers for effective online teaching.





Becker, Henry Jay (1999). Internet use by teachers. Retrieved 25 August 2000 from the World Wide Web:


Coley, Crandler and Engel (1999). Computers and technology: The status of technology in U. S. schools. Princeton, NJ: ETS.


Kearsley, Greg & Shneiderman, Ben (1998). Engagement theory: A framework for technology-based teaching and learning. Educational Technology; v38 n5 p20-23 Sep-Oct 1998.

Lyman, Huntington (1998). The promise and problems of English on-line: A primer for high school teachers. English Journal; v87 n1 p56-62 Jan 1998.


Merisotis, Jamie P. and Phipps, Ronald A. (1999). What's the Difference? Outcomes of Distance vs. Traditional Classroom-Based Learning. Change; v31 n3 p12-17 May-Jun 1999.


Rodenburg, Dirk (1999, November/December). Web-based learning: Extending the paradigm. Technology Source. Retrieved 25 May 2000 from the World Wide Web:


Sherman, Lee (1998). The promise of technology. Northwest Education; v3 n3 p2-9 Spring 1998.


Yelland, Nicola (1999). Reconceptualising schooling with technology for the 21st century: Images and reflections. Information Technology in Childhood Education Annual; p39-59 1999.


Critical Reviews

Critic Y

It's been about 18 months since we ran the article on LEARN NC which I've just reread. I'm not seeing very much meat in this article,
other than the list of goals of the five courses. Since the new program just began June 2000, it's primarily a description of goals
and plans. I think it might be more valuable to wait until they have some experience with the plan to talk about. How about inviting them
to resubmit this article in six months with a publication date around June 2001 with an additional section about the first year of