Teaching Online at CGS

The College of General Studies offers a large portfolio of online classes in various subjects and disciplines. Our online classes are grounded in best practices in interactive teaching and student-centered learning. 

Online faculty members are key to the success of our programs and students. Working with the Office of Online Learning and Academic Programs, faculty members have the opportunity to maximize the benefits of technology within the context of a traditional university setting, and the flexibility to create customized courses with support from the College of General Studies Instructional Design Team and the Teaching Center.

Explore the questions below to learn more about the types of online courses we offer and our process for proposing and approving new courses for online delivery at CGS.

What types of online courses does CGS offer?

In addition to our evening and Saturday face-to-face courses, the College of General Studies (CGS) also offers two types of online/distance education courses:

  • Web (fully online; includes weekly interactions and assignments);
  • Hybrid (online with weekly interactions and assignments, and one or more required on-campus or synchronous workshops)
Who is eligible to take online courses at CGS?

While CGS online courses are primarily developed and scheduled to meet the academic needs of CGS students, they are open to all University of Pittsburgh students just as undergraduate courses throughout the University are open to College of General Studies students.*

*Academic requirements and restrictions differ by school and department. Students are encouraged to see their advisor for more information.

Why should I teach an online course?

College of General Studies online courses support the University of Pittsburgh's mission of excellence in undergraduate and graduate programs, while offering individual faculty members a variety of personal and professional benefits:

  • Opportunities to learn about the latest online teaching practices.
  • Connection with a community of innovative individuals.
  • May qualify as a course overload.
  • Course development stipends.

As an online instructor for the College of General Studies, you will:

  • Provide students with world-class resources that can be viewed and studied 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • Encourage collaborative learning and share your research with a community of learners.
  • Engage in scholarly interests in a new manner, which can facilitate fresh perspectives.
  • Participate in a course development process with a trained instructional designer/technologist.
  • Join a community of faculty in which you can engage and share ideas about online education and teaching.
  • Learn about and implement new technologies and online teaching strategies.
What are the necessary qualifications for teaching an online course?

Please note that courses offered by CGS are the curriculum of academic departments throughout the University of Pittsburgh. Consequently, academic departments vet, hire, and, working with CGS Academic Affairs, assign instructors to teach and develop the online sections offered by our college. Explore Pitt Schools and Colleges.

Our Expectations

Faculty members who seek to teach online should demonstrate training and experience in online course development and instruction, as well as familiarity with the unique and diverse learning needs of adult and traditional age online learners. A successful online instructor will not only have solid content knowledge but also the ability to blend technology, pedagogy, and content in order to create meaningful and engaging learning experiences. An effective online instructor is also one who takes the time to communicate with his/her students on a regular basis, guides and mentors them through the learning process, provides feedback on assignments and overall progress, encourages critical thinking and responsibility for one's actions, and leads by example.

Instructors new to CGS Online should plan to meet with the CGS Director of Online Learning and a CGS instructional designer to discuss the type and level of training and support they will need prior and during teaching/developing their CGS online course. In addition, new CGS Online faculty will complete the CGS Demo Course for Online Instructors in Canvas and will have access to many other professional development opportunities such as individual consultations with a teaching and learning consultant, Canvas workshops and trainings, and CGS faculty orientation sessions and round tables on a variety of topics.

 What is the process for proposing an online course?

CGS works with University of Pittsburgh departments and faculty members to design, develop, and offer undergraduate courses in the online modality (hybrid and web). Priority is given to courses that meet and enhance CGS degree and certificate program requirements. Proposals are submitted by the instructor planning to develop and teach the course, with approval of the respective department chair.

The Office of the Director of Online Learning coordinates the proposal process. Pitt faculty members interested in developing a CGS online course should review the information available on this website and contact Dr. Boryana Dobreva for further information at boryana.dobreva@pitt.edu.

7 Steps from Course Idea to Proposal Submission

  1. Begin by consulting with your department chair about the viability of your idea to develop and offer an online undergraduate course through CGS.
  2. Review CGS' academic program and course offerings to identify what needs your proposed course meets.
  3. Familiarize yourself with our approach to online learning and course design by reviewing the standards we use in evaluating online courses.
  4. Contact the CGS Director of Online Learning Boryana Dobreva with your ideas for a proposed course. She will advise you of the College's interest.
  5. When you come in to discuss your course, you will review CGS online policies and procedures, our expectations for collaborative course development, and examples from CGS online courses to help you see what your course might look like.
  6. Request access to the CGS Online Demo Course and complete the training.
  7. Complete the CGS Online Course Development Proposal Form (via DocuSign) with your department chair's signature and submit it to CGS, along with a course syllabus and supporting course documents.

How long does the proposal approval process take? 

Please note that the initiation, preparation and administrative approval of proposals to develop a CGS online course may take anywhere between two and four months. Below is our timeline for proposal development and submissions, based on the anticipated term of initial course offering. This is not an open call for proposals. Please contact the Director of Online Learning for additional information.

CGS Timeline for Proposal Submissions

Proposals Start
Proposals Due
Term of Initial Course Offering




After submitting the proposal and approval is granted, what's next?

Once the proposal to develop a CGS Online course is completed and endorsed by the faculty's home department and CGS, the CGS Instructional Designer team will schedule a meeting to discuss a course development schedule and deliverables.  Instructors will participate in a faculty development cohort and work jointly with a CGS instructional designer to create their courses within Canvas.

 What should I know about the online course development process?

Developing and teaching an online course in either the web asynchronous or hybrid format requires a significant time commitment on the part of the faculty course developer. Research and experience show that effort required to develop and teach online courses is equivalent to developing and teaching the same course in a face-to-face modality. At CGS, the development process is team-driven and involves periodic meetings with an instructional designer and members of the faculty development cohort. Online course developments undergo several reviews by the CGS Instructional Design team prior to final approval. CGS Online Learning has, therefore, established  deadlines and benchmarks to ensure that the course will be ready at the start of the term in which you aim to offer it. You will be also asked to complete our self-paced, asynchronous Canvas online demo course for faculty. Learn more about the online course development process at CGS.