Online Team Teaching

So this week’s BOE podcast was about online team teaching, and I was introduced to the book Teaching Online: A Practical Guide by Ko and Rossen. Fortunately an earlier version is available in the Library, because it’s very expensive to buy! I learned from the podcast that they suggest three models for online team teaching approaches:

  1. Shared responsibility
  2. Division of labour
  3. Primary/secondary

This got me very much thinking about my experiences of online team teaching and what models we use. Most of the time I team teach with only one other person – Helen Foster, Moodle Community Manager (and yes, I believe you can have a “team” of two!) although I have also helped run course (which I won’t name) with a larger group of around ten people, which was… interesting.

Helen and I co-facilitate a twice yearly Learn Moodle MOOC and I think we use a mixture of the three models:

  1. We do share the responsibility in that we both facilitate and administer the site.
  2. There is somewhat of a division of labour in that Helen tends to do more of the background admin stuff while I tend to do more of the course content creation and the online facilitation
  3. There is therefore a primary/secondary element in the facilitation in that I am more prominent although Helen is always available if needed.

What I have learned from doing the MOOC with Helen  since 2013, going into our fifth year this year, is that it is absolutely essential to plan in advance AND keep track of your movements during the  online course. I would say it is the single most important aspect, from my point of view, to give the best chance of success. Over the years we have run the MOOC, we have developed a detailed shared Google spreadsheet which outlines what must be done in the weeks before the MOOC, during the MOOC and in the weeks after the MOOC (post MOOC clean up/pre-MOOC preparation) During the MOOC, the spreadsheet extends to days rather than weeks, as things need doing on a daily basis. Based on the ‘division of labour’ model, some aspects Helen always does (eg checking enrolments, managing the peer assessment workshop) and some aspects I always do (updating the video tutorials, primary monitoring of the forums) but for some activities on the spreadsheet we have a column where we can put our names if we want to ‘claim’ a particular job as ours that day or week. I suppose that would be a bit of the first model, Shared responsiblity. We also have a weekly video catchup on Sunday afternoons (before the weekly live sessions ) where we discuss t.he week’s events and anything which needs dealing with

I find this advance planning and ongoing record-keeping is very important, and also helps to calm the nerves which are natural with a MOOC of several thousand people. Quite how important was brought home to me a year or so ago, when I joined in another MOOC, with a lesser role, but a larger team. Although we knew each well online, we’d never worked or planned a course together. Everyone was very willing to collaborate, but in retrospect it seems to me that the Shared responsiblity model they followed actually caused more problems than it solved. There was a shared course where we could discuss the course as it was running, so we had our ‘social glue’, but there was no detailed spreadsheet and because a number of the group were given site admin rights, I’d wake up some mornings to find a major modification had been done to the course with no discussion with the others. Puzzled group members would ask in the shared course, and the miscreant   person responsible would say “Oh yes – I did that last night – thought it might be a good idea” .


I felt very nervous and uneasy about the team teaching throughout this course (even though it ultimately turned out to be, from the participants’ view point, a success) Perhaps it was a case of “too many cooks spoil the broth” with a large team – but I feel that, with an insistence on good planning and record keeping, we should instead have experienced “many hands make light work”.

The podcast also points out for example that when there is Shared responsiblity, you should always have a consistent approach – sing from the same hymnsheet. (Goodness, I am a bit cliché-ridden today!) This wasn’t always the case in this particular course, where several group members all eagerly answered forum questions but with differing opinions. I ended up being guilty of it myself too, on a couple of occasions, such was my frustration.

In terms of course announcements, Helen and I plan when to send announcements, what to say and how often to make the announcements (so participants don’t feel spammed, and so when an announcement is sent out, it is understood to be worthwhile.) Here, the team members posted in the Announcements (News) forum whenever something occurred to them – sometimes different team members posting two or three times a day, again without discussion with others.

In conclusion, I think that all three models can work well but only if there is clear and detailed agreement as to who does what, with all team members regularly and reliably recording somewhere any actions they have taken which have a bearing on the course.


Ko, S. and Rossen, S. (2017). Teaching online. 4th ed. New York, NY [u.a.]: Routledge.






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