Support for distance education practitioners

By Martin Hoffman

ITC microcredential courses provide durable, tangible, collaborative professional development

You are not alone!  Spoken in a sinister whisper these words could strike fear into the hearts of horror movie characters.  But spoken by a colleague they are an assurance that help is forthcoming.

Connecting practitioners to share best practices is central to the mission of the Instructional Technology Council (ITC).  However, these connections can sometimes be fleeting and intangible.  We often reach out in desperation when we need help, and we receive it, and then the connection is gone.  Or worse, we don’t reach out, and the opportunity is lost.

Microcredentials to the rescue

In order to create a more durable connection between practitioners and shared best practices, ITC has started producing microcredential courses.  They are designed for distance education faculty, administrators, instructional designers, and informational technology specialists.

The courses (so far) all follow the same model.  Each course consists of four modules that bring together subject matter experts (SMEs) with instructional designers (IDs) to create an engaging, self-paced experience that furthers the participants’ knowledge in a particular area of shared importance to today’s community colleges. The first topic area chosen by the ITC board of directors was “An Introduction to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Humanizing Instruction in Online Courses.”  Not wanting the title to be longer than the course itself, we simply call it DEI+H.

Four SMEs volunteered their time to provide the content.  They all had backgrounds in community colleges teaching as well as online course design and hailed from geographically diverse areas, such as Texas, New Jersey, Arizona and Ohio.  And all recognized that community colleges throughout North America were embracing DEI+H and trying to create high-quality professional development for their faculty.  By creating this microcredential course, ITC has spared each college in the country from recreating the wheel.

Each of the four modules is estimated to take approximately 2.5 hours to complete, for a total course time of 10 hours.  Participants engage with interactive content, complete periodic knowledge checks, contribute to discussions and create deliverables that they can use immediately.  They are also exposed to a wide variety of insights into this complex topic and are provided with references for further study and research since, by its very nature, the microcredential course is intended to be an “Introduction to…”

Upon successful completion, the participants receive a digital badge they can display on their social media accounts or print as a physical certificate.

Outcomes and next steps

The goal of this project was to provide ITC member institutions with high quality, collaborative professional development which met the following hallmarks: each subject was relevant to our members, topics could be mixed and matched to institutional needs (“micro” courses), participants would receive evidence of completion while being high quality professionally designed and produced durable courses at a level that might be beyond the resources of any single institution.

The next microcredential course, already under development, is “An Introduction to Assessment Strategies/Measuring Student Learning in Online Courses” and is expected to be available prior to the start of most institutions’ fall semesters.

ITC is an affiliate council of the American Association of Community Colleges.

Martin Hoffman

is the Instructional Technology Council board chair, and dean of learning resources at Rowan College at Burlington County in New Jersey.