Transitioning to Online Graduate Psychology Instruction. (the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning)

Article excerpt

Abstract

This article describes practical, strategies for teaching applied psychology courses in an online format. The article provides special emphasis on instructors transitioning to online teaching environments from face-to-face environments, the online teaching process, and a variety of assessment strategies used for measuring instructor performance. Applied psychology involves putting psychological knowledge into action on practical problems. Specialties typically include clinical, counseling, educational, health, family, developmental, industrial/organizational, forensic, sports, and addiction psychology. And while the traditions of distance teaching date back to the 19th century (Gold & Maitland, 1999), online training in graduate level applied psychology is relatively new. This article provides a description of issues relevant to graduate level training in applied psychology for instructors transitioning into online teaching.

Educational content

A graduate education in applied psychology generally includes knowledge of the bounds of psychology as a discipline, basic science and research training, specialized core curriculum knowledge, practical experience, continued education and training, and mentoring in the context of learner-faculty relationships (Ellis, 1992). More specific models have been proposed for training in specialization areas (Lowman, 1998; Stein & Lambert, 1995) with supplementary experiences offering additional core knowledge and socialization into the profession. For instance, multicultural training has been described as essential for learners in clinical, counseling, educational, and addictions psychology (Allison et al., .1994; Bernal et al., 1999; Diller, 1999; Ponterotto, Casas, Suzuki, & Alexander, 1995; Sue & Sue, 1990). Familiarity with special population issues also may be important. Drotar (1998), for example, wrote about psychologists in medical pediatric settings, while others have called attention to community settings (Feis et al., 1990) and work with geriatric clients (Hinrichsen et al., 2000). And more recently the issue of prescription training for work with clients needing psychiatric medication (Evans & Murphy, 1997) has been discussed as an area of necessary educational content.

In all cases, such information technically can be delivered online via structured readings, discussion groups, case presentations, and video presentations. The instructor need only be familiar with the presentational technology and able to discuss the content. Only the instructor skills and creativity, as in a face-to-face classroom, limit the delivery and presentation of content, as all of these methods are able to be used in both online and face-to-face environments.

Applications Content

In addition to gaining knowledge about facts, procedures, methods, and the educational content, learners must acquire interpersonal skills for the clinical and consultation aspects of their work. This experience is usually gained in practical work settings where direct training and modeling is provided. Evidence of good judgment, knowledge of personal limits, adequate communications and social skills, and an ability to apply these skills in vivo are essential components of this experience, whether part of an online or face-to-face training program. In terms of basic socialization around professional communications, instructors provide the bounds and guidelines for how to speak with and otherwise interact with peers and other professionals via the provision of information, modeling, and feedback. And with online learners, access for such interaction is ample with Internet-based communications and may foster more frequent one-on-one interaction among learners and instructors than traditional classrooms, as the Internet-based communications are the primary communications mode.

A key point though is that interpersonal communications are not simply matters of oral communication; they may be dependent on written communications. …