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 CGS Online. Working with CGS Academic Affairs, 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 and the University Center for Teaching and Learning.
Explore the questions below to learn more about the types of online courses we offer and our standards and expectations for online course development and delivery.
1. 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 workshops)
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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. Academic department contact information can be found at this link: http://www.pitt.edu/academics/schools-colleges.
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, pedagody, and content in order to create meaningful and engaging learning experiences. An effective online instuctor 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 Academic Programs and a teaching and learning consultant from the Teaching Center 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 BlackBoard or Canvas and will have access to many other professional development opportunities such as individual consultations with a teaching and learning consultant, Blackboard or Canvas workshops and trainings, and CGS faculty orientation sessions and roundtables on a variety of topics.
5. 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 Director of Academic Programs 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
7 Steps from Course Idea to Proposal Submission:
- Begin by consulting with your department chair about the viability of your idea to develop and offer an online undergraduate course through CGS.
- Review recent CGS Online offerings to verify the course you have in mind has not already been developed.
- Review CGS degree and certificate program requirements to identify what needs your proposed course meets.
- Familiarize yourself with our approach to online learning and course development by reviewing our Guide for CGS Online Instructors (PDF) and standards we use in evaluating online course design.
- Contact the CGS Director of Academic Programs Boryana Dobreva with your ideas for a proposed course. She will advise you of the College's interest.
- 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.
- Request access to the CGS Online Demo Course and complete the training.
- Complete the CGS Online Course Development Proposal Form (to be provided at meeting) with your department chair's signature and submit it to Boryana Dobreva, along with a course syllabus and supporting course documents.
6. 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.
CGS Timeline for Proposal Submissions
Term of Initial Course Offering
end of January
end of April
end of July
end of September
7. 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 Director of Academic Programs will schedule a meeting to discuss a course developlment schedule and deliverables. Each faculty course developer will work jointly with a teaching and learning consultant from PITT's Teaching Center to create the course within Blackboard. For more information about course development steps, consult the CGS Guide for Online Course Development.
8. What should I know about the online course development process?
Developing an online course is a demanding task that requires extensive planning, organization, and one’s ability to work within a schedule and meet deadlines. The development process is also team-driven and involves periodic meetings with the teaching and learning consultant as well as several stages of reviews by CGS Academic Affairs prior to final approval. CGS Online has, therefore, established several 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.
Additional Course Development Materials
Listed below are several resources available to help you as you begin the proposal and course development process:
University Center for Teaching and Learning:
Teaching in Canvas
Professional Organizations and Other Useful Links:
- Online Learning Consortium (OLC)
- Online Learning Journal (OLC publication)
- Quality Matters
- MIT Open Courseware
- UPCEA: Association for Professional, Continuing, and Online Education
- Teaching, Learning, and Technology Group
- Faculty Focus: Higher Ed Teaching & Learning
9. Who should I contact if I would like to learn more about teaching online at CGS?
Boryana Dobreva, PhD
Director of Academic Programs
Leslie A. Hilliard