This post is from Assistant Distance Learning Coordinator, Catherine McKee
Before March 2020, SPOT (Skills and Pedagogy for Online Teaching) was Mt. SAC’s required certification program for faculty teaching online (including hybrid courses).
Then COVID hit and the college transitioned to Temporary Remote Instruction (TRI) and allowed non-SPOT-certified faculty to teach online if they completed FOMAR (Fully Online by Mutual Agreement Readiness) training. Thanks to FOMAR, many faculty have been teaching online since last March without completing SPOT. In the meantime, over 550 faculty have signed up for SPOT and there are currently 625 faculty working toward completing the SPOT course.
FOMAR is not Forever
We hope that FOMAR helped you pivot to teaching remotely during the pandemic, and those lessons learned will continue to serve you well. But FOMAR was always meant to provide a temporary means to train faculty and ultimately help students by maintaining quality of instruction during TRI. As we begin to anticipate a return to campus, FOMAR is expected to expire as the sole credential required to teach online courses.
For Mt. SAC faculty who want to teach online courses in Fall 2021, SPOT certification will again be required. To be clear, online courses include courses taught with any class time replaced with online instruction. This means fully online asynchronous, fully online synchronous, or hybrid (partially online) courses. All of these course types had to go through the amendment process and receive approval through the college review process to be taught in a format other than face to face. Online and hybrid courses are subject to regulations from federal and state law, which is translated into local policies and processes. These courses must be taught by a SPOT-certified professor because professors need to know and abide by the legal requirements of distance learning.
By the way, face-to-face classes can still use Canvas. In fact, we recommend it! It’s a great way to provide course materials and collect assignments. So long as the activities in Canvas do not replace time you would spend together during schedule time in class, this is not considered an online or hybrid course. All classes get a designated Canvas course shell by default every term. You decide if you wish to use the course shell in Canvas. Courses in Canvas are only visible to students if you publish them.
So You Want to Be SPOT-Certified By Fall…
The SPOT course is an online, self-paced course in Canvas where you learn all of the criteria you must meet to align with course standards and distance education laws. SPOT consists of a main course where all the lessons reside, and an assigned course shell called your SPOT-Cert course (named SPOT-0000 where 0000 is a two-, three-, or four-digit number that is unique to you). This is where you complete the SPOT assignments, which consist of building the overall course resources section plus roughly 4 weeks of a distance learning course that meets all the requirements. Once you have completed the SPOT coursework/course building in your SPOT Cert Course, you submit the course for review by the Assistant Distance Learning Coordinator and SPOT review team.
As mentioned above, there are currently over 600 professors completing SPOT. How many SPOT reviewers are there? THREE. Keep that in mind when you plan. This is not the 12-items-or-less line at the grocery store on a Friday night. Instead, you just got in line for the most popular ride at Disneyland on a summer weekend.
In other words: If you hope to be SPOT certified in order to teach online at Mt. SAC in fall 2021 you must submit your SPOT course for review no later than June 1, and preferably much earlier.
Course submission is not SPOT certification.
You are not done because you completed all the activities and handed in your course. The course must be reviewed first to ensure you have understood and implemented all of the necessary elements of a distance learning course! So to repeat: course submission is not SPOT certification. Submission is the first step toward certification. Next, it is reviewed by a trained SPOT reviewer. Courses are reviewed in the order submitted. You are only SPOT-certified when your course has been reviewed and approved by the SPOT reviewers.
Courses are rarely approved on their first submission. There are usually a few revisions that need to be made to meet all the criteria. This means that courses are often sent back to the faculty member for some corrections and revisions before earning certification. The timeline for certification varies depending on:
- the number of courses already in the review queue (currently 60),
- the initial condition of the course when submitted (based on the first-round check with the SPOT rubric described in this blog post from last September)
- faculty responsiveness to the requested revisions (including turnaround time),
- accessibility challenges,
- possible discipline-specific issues, and more.
So, what to do?
- If you’re already in SPOT and hope to teach online in fall 2021, put your course together and submit it as soon as possible, ideally in April or early May but no later than May 31. Also, please complete the 5-minute survey linked from this week’s SPOT announcements (note: only those currently enrolled in SPOT will be able to access to this survey). The survey responses will help us plan for summer (and fall) course reviews.
- If you hope to teach online in fall 2021 and have not registered for SPOT, please do so right this minute and get started in the SPOT course.
Your three SPOT reviewers, Mike Dowdle, Sandra Weatherilt, and Catherine McKee, will be reviewing courses through spring semester and over summer, but we are not miracle workers.
Help us help you by using the SPOT rubric to go over your course in detail to make sure your course complies with the rubric, completing the rubric in detail, and submitting the rubric with your course as early as possible, but as far as possible in advance of June 1. We thank you in advance for doing this.
- For SPOT registration questions, please contact Sandra Weatherilt (email@example.com).
- For all other SPOT questions, please contact Catherine McKee (firstname.lastname@example.org).
We look forward to reviewing your course!
If you want to ask SPOT questions, the best way to get answers is to contact Catherine McKee by email (email@example.com) To make a suggestion for future blog posts on SPOT, distance learning, or another topic, leave your comments below!