Teaching Teachers to Teach Online (TTTOL)

Teaching Teachers to Teach Online, in short, Teaching Online, abbreviation TTTOL, is an accredited online course “doing what it says on the tin”, namely teach teachers to teach online.


The course was envisioned in early 2018 after meetings between senior staff at Sero Consulting Ltd and Wey Education plc. (Wey Education own Interhigh Education, a well-established online school, and also Academy 21 and other providers.)

During 2018, market research, specification and submission for validation took place. Content development started in January 2019. The course started on Monday 13 May 2019, delivered to six employees of Wey Education plc by staff from Sero Consulting Ltd and one from Interhigh. The course completed in early August 2019.

The second run of the course started on 2 September 2019, limited again to employees of Wey Education plc, but this time taught primarily by two successful graduates of the first course; it isdue to finish in December 2019.

From January 2019, the course will be available world-wide, at an affordable fee, to any qualified teacher, trainer or lecturer wanting to learn to teach online.


The course is brand new. A new UK national vocational (TVET) qualification at Level 4 [1] was created from scratch by the development team and validated by the OFQUAL regulated Awarding Body ATHE. The detailed specification, which is public [2] was informed by several months of market research (demand from online/blended providers) and competitor research (on all similar courses).

The project was managed by Paul Bacsich, Senior Associate of Sero Consulting Ltd under contract to Wey Education plc. The development team was led by Paul with the participation of Kerr Gardiner, Charlotte Doody, Michelle Selinger, Nick Jeans and two specialist advisors. The team first developed the specification for the qualification and then the course to teach the qualification. The first run of the course was taught and assessed by Sero team members, with additional teaching support from Paul Daniell, the founder of Interhigh [3] and a very experienced online teacher.

TTTOL in its current form (instances 1 and 2) is delivered via the Canvas VLE which Wey Education use for all their teaching and training activities. The focus of the practical work is Canvas, with Adobe Connect for the synchronous practical work. The course is delivered via Canvas with Adobe Connect for webinars.

However, it is hoped to develop practical work for other leading VLEs and synchronous tools in due course.

The specification for the TTTOL qualification is multi-national and multi-sector. However, the the first and second instances of the course have a focus on the UK schools system. Nevertheless the course can be easily adapted to other sectors, and countries – the team has extensive global wikis and other databases of online and open learning to draw on, thanks to several EU-funded projects.

The specification process started in summer 2018 with desk-based market research followed by a series of consultations with education experts across the English-speaking world and European Union. There were further consultations at key sector events including ALT-C 2018 and Online Educa Global Berlin 2018.

In contrast with somewhat similar courses offered by universities to their staff, this course is nationally accredited [1]; and furthermore the assessment is fully competence-based (under the OFQUAL scheme).

TTTOL tests practical skills (webinars, creating content, collaborative learning, etc) as well as theoretical knowledge of online pedagogies and their application to teaching. Both practice and theory are assessed (to national standards). This is very different from usual school or university practice and raised several challenges.


The course is a 12-credit qualification [2] consisting of the following 10 units of 1 credit each except for the 3-credit Unit 10. (Note that 1 credit is around 10 hours of student study including watching/listening/reading, interaction, individual work, group work and assessment.)

  • Introduction to online learning and teaching
  • Planning your online teaching
  • Teaching and learning with synchronous tools
  • Teaching and learning with asynchronous forums
  • Selection and use of open resources
  • Rich media content development
  • Assessment of and for learning
  • Collaborative activities with wikis
  • Project and practical assessment (online classroom observation)
  • Self-reflection and self-development

The assessed output of Unit 10 for each student is a full portfolio based on the CMALT professional accreditation scheme [4] developed by the Association for Learning Technology.

The role of Instructure

Instructure have been very supportive with supply initially of a development platform, but also advice and guidance. The team held one of its meetings at CanvasCon in London in October 2018, bringing together the development team with Wey staff.

Key features of Canvas – Canvas Commons, Canvas Network and the Canvas Community – all were of considerable help in sourcing example courses and technical advice. The breadth and depth of relevant course-level resource that could be drawn on was impressive, including much open education material.

Accreditation issues

ATHE support for qualification development and approval including of the assignments [5] has been to key to ensuring a high-quality consistent accredited qualification.

Agile/lean production methods

To achieve the lean production required to fit the budget and timescales, the team used agile development methods, creating their own approach [6] within the spectrum of agile content development methods such as [7]. In summary our content development approach for TTTOL is very unlike the usual university approach (even in open universities) where subject experts create documents and then hand these over to a separate team of content developers, with long update/amend cycles and mis-communication: our subject experts developed all the content, webinars, presentations, collaboration sessions, quizzes and assignments.

Subject experts were rapidly trained in Canvas in December 2018/January 2019 and then expected to create, amend and update all the Canvas material themselves, with the majority of support coming from within the team.

The rigorous OFQUAL approach to qualification specification and delivery, in particular Guided Learning Hours [8], was a useful “scaffolding” for learning design and constraint on specific pedagogic approaches.

From time to time certain major systematic tasks, such as standardising page names or revising assignments were assigned to one specific team member, but not to specialists.


Competence-based assessment may seem kind (only a pass is needed) but the need to pass each separate Assessment Criterion, in fact each sub-criterion) can make it seem cruel. There are also pressures to add more levels than just Pass/Fail (i.e. Competent/Not Yet Competent) such as Merit and Distinction – but there are work-arounds for these and practice is evolving [9]. This is an active area for our new developments.

Though very facilitative for synchronous online learning, the rigid definition (to some eyes, especially those used to asynchronous online learning) of Guided Learning Hours [8] can seem a problem. Our TTTOL course as delivered contains some experimental practice working right at the fringes of the definitions.

Some topics were regarded as particularly challenging by students, especially ones to do with open educational resources – the requirment for clarity under the lens of accredited competence-based assessment was daunting to some, and raised issues over how “open” some repositories actually were when subjected to close scrutiny, especially for non-text material.

Group work needed particular care when it came to assessment, but there was avery successful and popular group project on wikis – reassuring to those of us who have spent many years developing wikis and fostering wiki use.

Ongoing work

A subset of the TTTOL developers are continuing to work on related issues, including a number of ideas about how to take forward a range of qualifications which would extend TTTOL both at level 4 and add higher levels. There are also some optional units being considered where students and employers might want gaps filled, such as teaching via blogs, or learning analytics.

They are also interested in discussing the use of such agile/lean course development methods in universities who are using or planning to use Canvas, as there could be considerable positive implications for the way they might deploy their support staffing differently from what conventional (traditional?) wisdom suggests.

It is our belief that such approaches are possible only with the latest-generation VLEs and evidence for our assertions will be provided. A key factor is to have a Rich Content Editor where almost anything can be pasted in from anywhere yet give useful results.

In fact the requirements for TTTOL provide a kind of benchmark for what a modern VLE should contain and the team look forward to developing this and similar courses to be hosted on other modern VLE platforms.

The team is also interested in reaching out to other teams round the world considering qualifications in this area, to see if some commonality of approach/syllabus and mutuality of accreditation under a global/regional TVET approach e.g. UNESCO or COL or EU [10] [11] might be feasible.

Further information

Some further information on the history can be found at [12].

Written by Paul Bacsich, Matic Media Ltd and University of West Indies Open Campus, UK. Published in the Book of Abstracts for OEB Global 2019, ISBN 978-3-94-1055-51-3. Order the print version here.


  1. https://register.ofqual.gov.uk/Detail/Index/42984?category=qualifications&query=teaching%20online
  2. https://atheuk.sharepoint.com/sites/Qualifications/Shared%20Documents/Forms/AllItems.aspx
  3. https://interhigh.co.uk/the-interhigh-story-uks-first-online-school/
  4. https://www.alt.ac.uk/certified-membership
  5. https://athe.co.uk/development-and-endorsement/
  6. https://www.researchgate.net/project/Teaching-Teachers-to-Teach-Online-TTTOL
  7. https://gathercontent.com/blog/adopting-agile-approach-content
  8. https://ofqual.blog.gov.uk/2013/02/20/whats-the-deal-with-guided-learning-hours/
  9. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/755681/
  10. https://unevoc.unesco.org/e-forum/CompetenceStandardsforTVET.pdf
  11. https://en.unesco.org/themes/skills-work-and-life/interagency-cooperation
  12. https://edtechnology.co.uk/Article/teaching-qualification-launched-by-online-education-providers/

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