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Getting Started

Want to Teach Online?

Online courses are developed based on curriculum need at the departmental level. Once a course is approved for online development, Extended Learning and the Center for Digital Learning provide comprehensive support resources for students and faculty.

Approval Process

Online course proposals are reviewed by Department Chairs. They, in turn, work to incorporate approved courses into a three year plan. After the approval process is complete, Extended Learning handles scheduling and the Center for Digital Learning works with faculty to develop their course.


After approvals, an assessment meeting is scheduled in which the faculty receives an overview of Extended Learning's online support, tools, and course examples. This meeting is an opportunity to answer questions and concerns. This is an opportunity for the Center for Digital Learning staff to assess the needs of the faculty and assign an instructional designer with the experience and skills needed for that course.  Through this discussion, the Center for Digital Learning staff offer their expertise and experience with:

  • Assessment
  • Communication
  • Instruction
Student Resources
  • Learning UNM Learn
  • Technical Support
  • Managing Assignments
  • Completing Assessments

The instructor is assigned one of the Center for Digital Learning's instructional designers and notified by email. The faculty member and designer will then meet to start the online course development process. The designer assists in customized course planning and structuring; provides strategies on pedagogical best practices; and delivers resources and assistance for learning tools.

It is very useful to bring a syllabus from the face-to-face course and a proposed instructional schedule to this initial meeting. Together the instructor and the designer will review the course as a whole and work to develop a module/week model for the course’s structure. Depending on the faculty’s technical experience and desires, the designer can assist with the look and feel of the course, developing effective tools, (assessment, communication, instruction), and offering tips on grading and timing.

Design and production assistance depends on the faculty member’s comfort level. Faculty is encouraged to let the designer know the topics they would like supported. They include:

  • Syllabus language needed for online students
  • Instructional tools
  • Web pages
  • Voice over PowerPoint type recordings
  • Audio Podcasts
  • Asynchronous discussions
  • Synchronous Web Conferences
  • Video taped demonstrations
  • Graphics
  • Publisher Content
  • Media
  • Assessments and Assignments
  • Use of External Resources
  • Construction of Learning Modules
  • Communication with students
  • Structure of course based on best practices
  • Document Compression
  • Surveys (Demographic, Mid-course, IDEA)
  • Grading
  • Student Orientation
  • Accessibility Issues
  • CAPS In-the-Course Tutors
  • CAPS Online Services
  • Tutorials for UNM Libraries

Once an online course begins, the Center for Digital Learning provides ongoing support as needed. This support includes assistance with the tools used to teach the course as well as student support provided by your assigned instructional designer. Additional help and support can be received at our workshops and drop-in events. These can be found on the Fully Online Faculty event schedule on our Training Schedule page:

Often, as the semester progresses, the instructor wants to make changes to the course. The Center for Digital Learning staff will provide support through the process and empower faculty to comfortably make such changes. The Center for Digital Learning asks that an online course be offered by the department for three semesters. Typically, online instructors take full ownership of their course by the third semester, knowing that CDL is there, just in case.

Scheduling and Student Services

The Extended Learning Scheduling and Students Services group works with online students from the time the student asks about your course until the first day of the semester. Their services include:

  • Course Scheduling
  • Enrollment Services
  • Registration Services
  • General Academic Advisement
  • Admissions
  • Course Surveys

Some Common Assumptions About Teaching Online:


From the literature

Parker Palmer in Courage to Teach (1998) reminds us that classrooms are simply spaces that have been organized especially to promote learning among a community of people whose learning goals are similar. The degree and nature of interaction among participants in face-to-face classrooms vary greatly, and the same is true in online classrooms. Online courses can be very lonely, or they can be very social and interactive in nature. (p. 25)

You, as the instructor, are responsible for creating the types of spaces learners want and need, and for sensing your learners' expectations. You must also gauge how important social interaction is to the students. Your Course Designer can suggest a variety of techniques to facilitate greater interaction and community among your learners. (p. 25)

-Hanna, D.E. (2000). 147 practical tips for teaching online groups: essentials of Web-based education. Madison, WI: Atwood Publishing.

In UNM Online Courses

Opportunities for social presence:

  • Threaded Discussions (similar to classroom discussions)
  • Blogs
  • Private Journals
  • Web Conferencing with voice
  • Roster for student photos
  • Email within the course
  • Collaborative work through:
    • group discussions
    • group assignments
    • publishing student work within the course
    • collaborative publishing through wikis


In UNM Online Courses

These are some of the strategies faculty use to keep in touch with their students; however there is no substitute for pure instructor presence.

Interactive Strategies
  • Online grading rubrics with feedback
  • Creating quizzes or surveys to assess understanding
  • Using the Assignment Tool to allow students to submit work; UNM Learn has an option to allow students to submit work for you to return with comments.
  • Facilitating discussions
  • Using Mail and/or private journals to communicate with individual students
  • Holding virtual office hours
  • Web conferencing
Communication Strategies
  • Online grading rubrics with feedback
  • Pop-up announcements
  • Video or audio messages
  • Notes written in to supplement lectures or readings
  • Voice-over PowerPoint slides

From Faculty & Students at UNM

"I think my interaction with the teacher with this online course has been more so than other courses, because if I have a problem, or a question, or an issue I just email him and he answers me right away, whereas opposed to big classes you are always kind of scared to go up to the teacher, and go up and approach the teacher and talk to the teacher. So I've had a lot more interaction with him than my other teachers. And with the students it's the same thing, you can check Who's Online and just do an IM, a chat with them and ask them, rather than ask the teacher..."
Spirit Amber Gaines Online Student - Astronomy 101L (Lab)

"I have weekly quizzes that every student takes. And one of the things that I do is I watch to see to make sure that the students are taking the quizzes and that their scores are at least either improving or consistently good. If a student's grades are dropping off, I'll either write them an email, or I'll give them a call and I'll say "Hey, I noticed your scores have started falling, have you quite watching the lectures? Have you not been reading the text? Why don't you give me a call and we'll talk about " So it is very easy to stay up to whether students are learning or not."
Lee Orosco, Civil Engineering, School of Engineering

"I think what I have liked best is the time you have. The time you have to be prepared for a class, because a lot of times you're working so hard that you don't have time to do all the readings and everything, but with this type of online course you can have the time you need to be prepared. You have time to think about what people are saying, and respond in respectful manners and to really think about... you have it all in writing, so if you want to go back to a question that somebody had, you always have it there to think about it even more."
Monica Osborn, Student, Educational Leadership, College of Education

"It also offers a wider variety of interactions. When I attend an online class, I mean a local class, where you see face to face students, you get to know the students and you get a lot of the information over and over again because you know you're a student... you know your classmates. But when you go online there are students from all over the state that provide input that I normally wouldn't get from my class. It does bring in a piece of education, at least for me, that I normally wouldn't have gotten, that I didn't get in undergraduate, didn't get in a Masters program, because the students were my colleagues... they were my peers; a cohort group in essence. We went through and now I'm seeing people from all ends of the state, from all corners, and I'm hearing things from different locations that I wouldn't have heard from otherwise. So, good diversity."
Wayne Gordon, Student, Educational Leadership, College of Education

From the literature

Rourke and Anderson (in press) have shown"... that students can and do overcome the lack of non-verbal communication by establishing familiarity through the use of greetings, encouragement, paralinguistic emphasis (e.g., capitals, punctuation, emoticons), and personal vignettes (i.e. self-disclosure)." (p. 49)

The design of appropriate amounts of interaction is critical and depends on a variety of factors, many of which are rooted in the expectations and capacity for interaction expressed by the students." (p. 44)

Garrison, D. R. & Anderson, T. (2003). E-Learning in the 21st Century, A framework for research and practice. New York: Routledge-Falmer


From Faculty at UNM

"(Extended Learning) support(s) me. I have everything I need. ...I worry about the content and EL worries about the details and that has really worked well for me.
Lisa Gerber, Philosophy, College of Arts and Sciences

"The technicians, the people in Extended Learning are just so supportive and they are there, it seems like 24 hours a day. ...the people at UNM who support me and my classes are absolutely wonderful, I can't say enough wonderful things about them."
Linda Shul, Anderson School of Management

"One of the excellent things here at UNM is Extended Learning's course designers who have been so helpful. The more that I've done, I've gotten more proficient, but I always know that if there's a question, I can go to the course designer. ...I'm also grateful for the great tech support we have at EL. That makes all of the difference for the students who don't get hung up in those types of issues.
Robert Tepper, Anderson School of Management

"Although you may be a little intimidated about teaching online, because it is very, very different than face to face, you need to know that the Extended Learning folks will be very helpful for your students and for you... They are ever ready when your students have a question, they are constantly responding to them...quickly and well. ...they are very competent. The Extended Learning people are there to help you with pedagogical questions, and tool questions. I can't comment enough about how helpful they are."
Carolyn Wood, Faculty Emeritus, Educational Leadership, College of Education

From the literature

One of the keys to the success of an online course is "...adequate resources to support online instructors (ie: technology support resources)," (Hogan & McKnight, 2007, p. 123).

Our approach

UNM has a unique approach to support for online instructors. Understanding that faculty who would make dynamic online instructors may not necessarily be technologists, Extended Learning and the Center for Teaching and Learning includes a group of instructional designers and multimedia specialists who work directly with faculty to develop their online courses. They are skilled web designers, with strong educational backgrounds, and current in the research and practice of online learning. The combined expertise of the Center for Digital Learning, the Center for Teaching Excellence, IT, Compliance, Strategic Initiatives, and Student Services staff offers UNM faculty and students a complete resource for online teaching and learning.

Each online faculty is assigned an instructional designer. The designer assists the faculty, as needed, in learning UNM Learn, planning and developing their course, and providing online pedagogical assistance and technical support. 

The Center for Digital Learning staff understands and is dedicated to the fact that faculty want their students to enjoy a rich, rigorous learning experience and are there to insure all faculty and students the best possible opportunities for success.

Hogan, R. L. & McKnight. Exploring burnout among university online instructors: An Initial investigation. Internet and Higher Education, 10, 117-124.