Practicum in Foundations of Online Teaching

Last Updated: April 16, 2021 - 4:15 pm
Beginning in Spring 2020, Northwestern University began offering its instructors and teaching assistants a comprehensive practicum on remote instruction. Following successful iterations offered to those teaching during the 2020 summer and fall terms, The University continues to invite instructors and teaching assistants who will teach online courses to participate in the program. This learning opportunity will: provide hands-on experience; enable our instructors to broaden their skills in teaching fully online courses; and provide a network of resources for them to call upon going forward.

Under the aegis of the Learning and Technology ecosystem Advisory Committee, a collaborative team developed the practicum with members from Northwestern IT, University Libraries, AccessibleNU, the School of Professional Studies, and the Searle Center for Advancing Learning and Teaching. This group blends the collective expertise of the various units to provide comprehensive, streamlined resources and programming that support instructors in their teaching. 

Program Goals

The purpose of the practicum is to provide instructors and teaching assistants with crucial knowledge and skills, grounding them in the foundations of online teaching. The program will equip participants with skills, strategies, tools, and knowledge to translate and reconceptualize the in-class experience into an online learning environment. The practicum will also include a focus on teaching in hybrid modalities (where there are a mix of remote and in-person students in the same class) for those instructors who wish to explore this option. Using a cohort structure, participants will learn, share, and collaborate, creating a supportive network and building capacity in teaching across the University.

The practicum will model the best practices of teaching online, capitalizing on synchronous sessions for crucial, face-to-face activities, and moving individual work and review of materials to asynchronous sessions. 

Registration for the April 19-May 7 session is now closed.


 Participants will move through the three-week program in supportive cohorts. The next upcoming schedule for the practicum is:

  • April 19-May 7. Registration is now closed.
Time Commitment

The practicum is a three-week program, with approximately four to five hours of engagement per week, plus individualized time for developing course design and building a Canvas course site.

Please review this sample of the practicum schedule.

Program Content

The practicum presents a model of course design that includes synchronous and asynchronous elements, aligning and synthesizing them each week. The practicum uses the Universal Design for Learning framework, with its emphasis on engagement, representation, action, and expression in teaching, includes a focus on the student experience; and provides accessibility accommodation implementation strategies as well as practical examples of how best to integrate equity and inclusion in an online learning environment.

The curriculum has at its center three required sessions about Universal Design for Learning, active learning, and course design. The participants have one group and two individual consultations with learning designers. They contribute to course quality through a peer review of participants’ course designs. In addition, they are offered a set of recommended sessions on topics including instructor presence, facilitating discussion, finding and using OERs, providing accommodations online, as well as on the uses of specific tools. The curriculum is rounded out with recommended readings and other resources on all of these topics. The practicum will also have a track on teaching in hybrid modalities for those instructors who wish to explore methods of teaching classes with a mix of remote and in-person students. 

Advice from previous participants

We surveyed the Summer 2020 instructors who enrolled in the practicum and asked what they would advise future participants. Here’s what they said:

“Free up your calendar for this time!”

“Open your mind to all possibilities; don’t try to just move your live material into on-line; rethink what is possible.”

“Make use of all opportunities for meeting with your private consultant.”

“Peer feedback is incredibly helpful. Please do not hesitate to share your experience with your classmates.”

Registration is now closed