Instructor Competencies for Using Rich Media

Posted on Sep 11, 2014

Instructor Competencies for Using Rich Media

Teaching online calls for a combination of technical and communication skills, sculpted in a manner that aligns with a variety of goals and objectives:

  • What are the characteristics and personal goals of your learners?
  • What kinds of artifacts best represent evidence of learning in a given course?
  • What are the expected capabilities of a student who graduates from a given program?
  • What is the college’s mission: workforce readiness, scholarship, certification, etc.?

In the Rich Media Playbook, we make the case for using rich media in ways that are most advantageous to learners in achieving a set of instructional goals.

Here, we describe the areas of proficiency instructors need for teaching online with rich media, and a framework for organizing them for use in professional development.

Instructional Designers and faculty training supervisors may find the following competency statements useful in professional development programs, and as a basis for issuing micro-credentials to individuals in preparation for teaching online.

The information here is compiled from published research, training experiences with instructors, course design and development projects, and feedback from instructors.


All instructors must be good communicators.

The richness of realtime face-to-face communication enables participants to cue each other when there is a gap in understanding, certainty, or coherence, as well as when there are points of mutual understanding.

In contrast, asynchronous communication, mediated by devices and presented by written or pre-recorded language, is not so rich. What is gained in the ability to organize and access information at anytime in a learning management system is offset by learners’ struggle to make sense of information in the absence of a live facilitator to place it into a meaningful context, or to punctuate the information in a way that clarifies how it is to be interpreted.

These conditions suggest that online instructors should be knowledgeable in the various ways information can be communicated, and to present them in an online course in a way that accounts for learners’ needs for certainty, clarity, relevance, and meaning.

And since online learning material is, by nature, delivered through the Internet, it is incumbent for online instructors to maintain awareness of the continuing innovations in Web tool development, interface design, and the language used to describe tasks and processes.

Why create a set of competencies just for rich media?

We take as a given that instructors seeking training for using rich media are already accustomed to teaching in higher education.

While this is no assurance that individuals are certifiably qualified to teach a college course, or to deliver one online, we relegate the responsibility for learning foundation knowledge and praxis to broader programs for teaching and learning online.

This is to say that there are much larger issues involved in being prepared to teach online than being able to teach using rich media – those being (to name just a few):

  • Acculturation to being a facilitator more so than being the center of attention in a classroom.
  • Acclimation to using a computer as the primary access point for course content and student communication.
  • Reconciliation with the distinct differences and needs of students who choose to take online courses.

It is possible that one can complete instructor training to teach an online course and successfully do so without using rich media.

However, given the affordances of rich media and the potential advantages for students in their experience of learning, we make the case that rich media proficiency should be a required component of online instructor training at some point in the longterm plans for instructor professional development.


We portray the Competencies in three hierarchical tiers: Knowing, Doing, and Being. This approach is adapted from a framework presented by Aric Mayer, Western Washington University, as a basis for their MBA program (Mayer, 2014), and claimed as a framework by the Institute of Leadership & Management (UK)

Being: Represents holistic characteristics of an instructor whose work embodies an exemplary model for others within a community of practice.

Doing: Represents the ability to apply skills and theories in praxis.

Knowing: Represents comprehension of theories, ability to connect knowledge to situational needs, and orientation with the online environment.

As stated in Mayer’s program, and adapted for our purposes, goals represent what we want our instructors to be; objectives describe what we want our instructors to do.

Our goal is to train online instructors so that they are not merely practitioners, but change agents who are able to lead by example, and to influence their colleagues’ practice. The Competencies represent what practitioners would do to embody this goal.

Our matrix for Knowing, Doing, and Being is projected across three sets of proficiency: Technical, Pedagogical, and Leadership (see table 1).











Table 1: Matrix framework for Rich Media Competencies

Some areas of the matrix can be assessed with perhaps one-time demonstrations of proficiency; others will require more longitudinal observation to assess, such as those associated with leadership.

Training program designers and their stakeholders must consider these factors when planning how to certify instructors for specific qualifications.

Assessment Approach:

We will use a competency-based approach to assessing proficiency, nested in the context of a Community of Practice (CoP) (Wenger, 2006).

In introducing a CoP perspective, we presume that participants will be interacting as “professional online instructors” who aspire to sustain the continuous improvement of the practice of teaching online in higher education, and who are active in evaluating work done by peers.

Our assessment asks whether the evidence submitted for evaluation demonstrates an ability that is performed consistently and independently, according to the standards and expectations of a community of peers operating in the same context.

We rate the work according to a rubric scale that articulates the presence or absence of a given competency, from “Unable” to “Proficient”, with judgement based on consistency and independent performance. The example below (table 2) demonstrates this principle, though the final version of the scale may change.





Able to write a preface for a video asset that promotes engagement with the content in terms of the instructional goal.

Still in the process of learning basic concepts of video media and working memory. Thus, unable to connect the two concepts together.

Able to connect concepts of video media and working memory, but inconsistently, or not without assistance.

Able to connect the concepts of video media and working memory consistently and independently.





Table 2: Sample competency-based assessment scale

Technical Competencies

Technical competencies refer to skills related to using a computing device to locate resources via the Internet, to use various methods to facilitate student access to resources, to produce one’s own content, to manipulate content produced by others, and to utilize the affordance of the Learning Management System (LMS) to post access to rich media as needed.

  1. Locate online rich media resources relevant to subject matter.
    1. Use Internet search skills to locate appropriate repositories, Open Educational Resources (OER), social networks, or Web tools.
    2. Use collaborative strategies, i.e. social media, internal institutional communication, professional organizations, etc., to expand awareness of resources.
  2. Select existing rich media resources and facilitate student access to them.
    1. Identify common methods available for downloading, sharing, and publishing resources.
    2. Generate embed codes or share links from resources and place them in a course module so that they may be accessed in a course.
    3. Utilize a Web tool in teaching activities with practical value for students.
  3. Create rich media resources and facilitate student access to them.
    1. Write scripts or outlines for use in original media production that are appropriate for their purpose.
    2. Use basic computer and digital devices to record video, audio, and image media.
    3. Use basic media applications to edit, prepare, or embellish video, audio or image media.
    4. Create or modify an existing blog, social media account, Web tool, or widget and facilitate student access to it.
    5. Compose content in a social network or Web tool to use as the focus of instructional activity.
  4. Facilitate universal access to rich media.
    1. Use captioning or transcript utilities to support access for students with disabilities.

Pedagogical Competencies

Pedagogical competencies refer to the ability to identify and explain the theories that support the use of rich media, and to utilize rich media in instructional contexts that best utilize its affordances in support of achieving learning outcomes.

  1. Demonstrate knowledge of useful theories and research that explain the advantages of rich media in online learning.
    1. Explain theories and research that are relevant to sensory experience, cognitive processing, social learning, and their connection to the affordances of rich media.
    2. Explain theories and research that are relevant to promoting and sustaining online learners’ motivation to learn and participate, and their connection to the affordances of rich media.
    3. Recognize opportunities for using rich media in conceptualizing online course learning activities to support achievement of learning outcomes.
    4. Make connections between the learners’ needs and the cognitive and sensory affordances of rich media resources to meet those needs.
  2. Select high quality rich media resources.
    1. Evaluate multimedia resources for their suitability to use in instruction.
    2. Evaluate the quality of an online social network or website of a professional organization for its suitability to use in instruction.
    3. Evaluate a Web-based tool for its suitability to use in instruction.
  3. Write instructional prompts that present rich media with relevance and meaning to learners.
    1. Introduce rich media resources that describe provenance, authorship, and context of publication.
    2. Write a preface that explains the relevance of the rich media resource to the instructional context.
    3. Write prompts that task learners with themes to watch for while engaged with rich media so that the learner is actively attendant to content or activity.
    4. Write discussion forum or assignment prompts that effectively utilize rich media engagement experiences as an integral part of demonstrating evidence of knowledge construction.
  4. Evaluate the effectiveness of a rich media-based resource or activity.
    1. Determine how a rich media-based resource or activity has contributed to the learning experience based on review of student work, and propose steps for improvement if needed.

Leadership Competencies

Leadership competencies refer to one’s identity as a professional online instructor within a community of practice. Professional qualities in this category are embodied in exemplary social participation in the overall betterment of online teaching and learning.

  1. Contribute to the advancement and improvement of rich media use in online instruction.
    1. Monitor and share information, experiences, and resources with others.
    2. Offer presentations at conference events on the subject of using rich media in online instruction.
    3. Publish content online in the form of blogging, micro-blogging, or social media participation on the subject of using rich media in online instruction.
  2. Assist others in improving their skills.
    1. Participate in mentorship relationships with other instructors.
    2. Serve as a peer reviewer for the work of others, offering constructive feedback and emotional support.
  3. Comply with and maintain ethical and legal standards.
    1. Use rich media in compliance with the laws and regulations of copyright and fair use.



Wenger, E. (2006). Communities of practice: a brief introduction. [Online] retrieved July 23, 2014 from

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