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An Instructor Prepares: Welcome to Higher Ed Torie | Wichita State IDT

She couldn't wait to start teaching online... What Torie experienced, however, would shape her motivation and career for years to come.

Photo of Caleb Wilson
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In the Spring of 2012, I was a Graduate Teaching Assistant in the Department of English at Wichita State University. After giving my last final of the semester, I walked through the hallways of my department with a few leftover doughnuts my students hadn’t taken. I stopped in to the Composition Director’s office to offer him a Krispy Kreme. We started talking about my plans for the summer and my teaching assignments in the fall. He asked if I had any interest in teaching a course online. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity. Teaching online meant a miniscule pay bump and an addition to my CV. There was no reason not to take advantage of that.


As it turns out, my experience teaching online was the sort of horror story that keeps those passionate about online learning up at night. While I had discussed teaching the courses with my Director in the spring, I wasn’t given my first online teaching assignment until five days before the course started. I received almost no materials and had received no formal training on how to be an effective online instructor. I hurriedly built a course to the best of my abilities, but my students and I suffered along together for about four months. I learned a lot in my first semester teaching online—but my number one takeaway was the lack of instructional support provided by my university for graduate teaching assignments and first-time online instructors.


This experience pushed me towards my current position as a Senior Instructional Designer at Wichita State. Each day in this position, I try to help other young instructors avoid the disaster that my student’s and I experienced.

Specifically, please check all that apply:

  • A group brainstorm
  • An Individual

Tell us about your work experience:

Torie joined the Media Resources Center at Wichita State University as an Instructional Designer in 2015. Before joining the team, she worked as a Graduate Teaching Assistant for Wichita State’s Department of English. There she taught various Composition and Literature courses both face-to-face and online. Torie has received her BA and MA in English Language and Literature from Wichita State University.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

From conversations our team has had at conferences and among instructors, Torie isn't the only one jumping into higher education ill prepared for the challenges ahead. Whether you're a beginner or not, shifting gears into new teaching environments requires quality tools and training.

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Photo of Jim Johnson

Yes Caleb, I feel the pain. 

Not only is there an art and science to the teaching process, the administrative duties and logistics involved, are overwhelming. I began teaching online in 2013, and there wasn't a training manual provided.
I've discovered it's all about logistics and maximizing the use of technology. Fortunately, the program I work for has great leadership and about 117 active online instructors. And we've recently been trained in the QM (Quality Matters) evaluation methodology you mentioned in another post.  Quality DOES matter. The classroom can no longer be "Chalk and Talk" or "Sage on the Stage."

From my research, I've discovered that some of the pioneers in the area of evolving the classroom include MIT, Harvard, and Stanford. The challenge for underfunded schools is the balancing act between fiscal needs and quality control. A lecture class with 200 students using prepackaged material and instructor generates huge profit margins but no real skill sets.  If students don't get their money's worth out of a class, they have no recourse. 

Training, measuring and rewarding works in most private companies. I wish it was true in higher ed. 

Side note: In the online program where I teach, the students are surveyed after each course to evaluate the quality of the material, the level of their learning, and the abilities of the instructor. My standing within the program is heavily influenced by the survey results, and I welcome the feedback. 

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