As colleges and universities continue to develop their own approaches to increasing the number of distance learning courses to meet the growing demand, it is useful to think about strategies for making the transition to online courses more seamless and less resource intensive. With the growth of digital experiences across all sectors, it may be time to stop treating teaching online as something special and as something requiring inordinate effort from existing faculty. I propose that we begin treating online classes just as we treat Thursday classes. By this I mean that the decision to teach online should be just as momentous as the decision to teach on a Thursday.
Currently, in many settings the decision to teach online takes on seemingly great importance and often requires special assistance and special institutional arrangements. The decision to approve an online course, at too many campuses, is still treated differently than the decision to approve a course that will be taught on campus, even when the instructor is the same.
With digital tools and environments proliferating and becoming common experience, it is past time to make using them business as usual. This shift to viewing online courses as just another distribution decision, much like scheduling, will help to reduce the barriers, psychological and logistical, to selecting online options. Accomplishing the reduction of barriers will require selecting technologies that are more common and well understood, while leaving more specialized options to advanced users motivated to handle any challenges on their own.
College and university instructors are among the most accomplished learners on the planet so they should be able to master most online technologies with an internet connection and a weekend. Besides once we increase the number of instructors with experience teaching online we will foster greater cross-pollination of ideas across faculties and generate more and better ideas for making distance learning as common as Thursday classes.