What do instructors need to know about teaching in a digital age?

May 9, 2014 Tony Bates

Jacques Cartier project 2

The next step on my road to writing an open textbook is to draft an overview of the contents of the book. Probably no stage of writing a book is more important than this and so I’m going to throw open the process and ask for your comments and suggestions.

Who is the book for?

I’m aiming mainly at faculty, instructors and teaching assistants in universities and colleges (including two year colleges). I’m particularly keen on reaching post-graduate students thinking of a career in higher education, and young lecturers and instructors who are fairly new, but I recognize that more experienced classroom instructors will also need some guidance and help as they move increasingly online.

I’d also like to get senior administrators such as Deans, Vice-Provosts, Teaching and Learning, and Provosts interested in the topics, as well as instructional designers and learning technology support staff, and the book could also be of interest to many k-12 teachers, but my main focus is on instructors in post-secondary education.


This post is essentially about content, but content and format are inextricably linked. I discussed possible formats in an earlier post, but I have described some of the activities I’m thinking of incorporating at the end of this post.

Outline of the book

This is very much a first draft and could change dramatically depending on the feedback I get. But you have to start somewhere.

i. Preface: what the book’s about; who it’s for; the format of the book; contributors

1. From periphery to mainstream: the evolution of technology-based teaching in higher education:  a very short history of educational technology; why change is necessary (needs of learners/needs of the economy/increasing cost of HE); challenges faced by instructors; this book aims to help.

2. The nature of knowledge and implications for teaching methods: Types of knowledge (epistemology) and implications for teaching.  Does technology change how we think or learn? Summary of learning theories (including connectivism). Teaching (and learning) styles. Competency based learning. Instructional design models (ADDIE, communities of practice, flexible design models). What we know about learning with technology (very briefly!)

3. Understanding technology Understanding media and technologies in educational contexts., including broadcast vs communicative; synchronous vs asynchronous; live vs recorded; real vs virtual. Locating different technologies within this framework, including lecture capture, LMSs, multimedia, simulations, remote labs, social media, virtual reality. Adaptive learning. Can computers replace teachers? A guide to media selection (might be moved to Chapter 6).

4. Modes of delivery: face-to-face; blended; hybrid; fully online. Open content and open learning (including issues of IP, OERs and MOOCs). Implications for the design of teaching. Impact on the campus/learning spaces.

5. Forms of assessment continuous vs summative; non-formal (feedback) vs formal (graded); multiple-choice; short answers; essays; project-work; e-portfolios; group work. Pros and cons and relationship to teaching goals. Lots of examples.

6. Nine (or 12) steps to quality teaching  with technology: identify your philosophy of teaching; what kind of course? teamwork; use of resources; master the technology; set appropriate learning goals; course structure and student activities; learner support; managing discussion; student assessment; course evaluation, including formative and role of learning analytics

7. Design templates and example module/course/program designs

Design models

  • traditional course (lectures, discussion, labs, etc.) with technology add-on
  • flipped classroom
  • ADDIE model
  • community/networked-based
  • flexible learning design (e.g. ETEC 522)
  • other?

Hybrid models

  • re-purposing (module, course, program) for different target groups
  • integrated design for multiple audiences (full-time, part-time, off campus)
  • adaptive learning models (e.g. maritime training)
  • can/should you mix and match approaches?

8. Strategies and planning for digital teaching: planning at the program level; roles for faculty, including content delivery and assessment, facilitator, co-creator of content, teaching consultant, managing a team including adjuncts and TAs; costs and time management; organization of resources (e.g. central or devolved); technology and educational productivity. Examples of good institutional strategies.

9. Faculty development (principles and examples) Why the current model is broken. Rewards and motivation for change. Types of faculty development: pre-service and in-service; just-in-time; brainstorming; mentoring; working in a team; mandatory courses. Examples of successful models.

10. Conclusion: What will the future look like? 12 rules of teaching in a digital age. Anything else I haven’t considered!


A. List of resources

Length: approximately 80,000 words/250 pages, with chapters of roughly 30 pages each.

Format: roughly 10 modules per chapter, each module = 30 minutes reading, with 30 mins activity = 10 hours study time per chapter = 100 hours for the book = one three credit course!

Two versions of the book: a straight read; one with in-built activities


  • non-graded  assessment questions for feedback purposes, including using all the various forms of assessment covered in Chapter 5
  • asynchronous discussion forums on set topics
  • project work for readers, including the design of a module, design of a course template, design of student activities, design of an assessment strategy
  • feedback and evaluation of other readers’ project work
  • guest lectures/interventions on specific topics
  • an ‘alumni’ network for readers of the book
  • developing a community of practice around the book
  • suggested assessment strategy if book used as a course.

Feedback really welcomed (I think)

I’m really welcoming feedback, and I’m also hoping for contributions and participation in the writing from others who are more specialized than myself. But in the end it’s my overall conception so I have to take overall responsibility for it. So here’s some of things I’m hoping to get from readers of this blog:

  • am I mad to open up this early stage of a book to the public? Will others steal my ideas?
  • have I got this completely wrong? Do instructors really need something completely different? Do we need instructors at all?
  • what important topics have I missed?
  • should I tie the book to its possible use as or within a course or should I just keep it as a book?
  • will instructors welcome activities or will they just skip them?
  • any other comments or suggestions

I’m actually going to be on a small island in the Mediterranean so you can be as rude as you like!

Milna, Brac, Croatia - where I plan to start writing the book

Milna, Brac, Croatia – where I plan to start writing the book

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