September 3, 2020 by HCDE-Texas
High school history teacher Chase Coulter completed a six-week, self-paced online instructor’s course offered by Harris County Department of Education after the onset of COVID-19. During the summer he was given the opportunity to create online history curriculum for his employer, Conroe Independent School District. The course also helped him establish best practices in his virtual classes this fall.
“I’m very grateful I took the course,” the nine-year teacher said. “It helped prepare me, and I believe it will open more doors in the future because I have that experience.”
HCDE began offering the course half-price this summer because of a growing demand for online teaching strategies as many districts shift back and forth to virtual instruction during the pandemic.
The course is sectioned into six modules, can be completed in six weeks and is recognized as a three-year certificate from the Texas Education Agency. Through Oct. 31, HCDE is offering the course for 50 percent off at $250 to support teachers new to the virtual classroom. Many districts are picking up the tab to help teachers with online teaching techniques.
“Everything in the course is self-paced,” Dr. Colina Poullard said. Poullard serves as curriculum director for HCDE’s Digital Education and Innovation and is one of several experienced curriculum directors who are available to help guide teachers through the online course.
The six modules span subjects like ensuring student achievement; promoting student collaboration and engagement; using best practices and strategies in online learning; teaching in an online classroom; and understanding copyright law and fair use requirements. Teachers will be introduced to online course activities like blogs, forums, wikis and discussion boards along with learning platforms and apps.
Poullard emphasizes the importance of establishing norms and structures in any virtual learning environment. That includes doing activities at a specific time like watching a video or saying the pledge.
“You should also model what you are going to be doing with your students,” she said.
When using the chat box or a new app, she suggests modeling first. Tell them the “why” and give them opportunity to practice with the device before the lesson begins.
Finally, Poullard urges teachers to provide lessons in small bites as students progress virtually. A student should be able to give feedback after each piece.
“It’s extremely important for students to feel connected to their teacher,” Poullard said.
Poullard said the course is beneficial to teachers across the country, as well as locally in Texas. For more information about enrolling in the Online Instructor’s Course through HCDE, access https://tinyurl.com/HCDEonline or email firstname.lastname@example.org.