CUNY Online Teaching Essentials

The Online Teaching Essentials (OTE) program has supported over 2,000 CUNY faculty teaching tens of thousands of students in the transition to online teaching and learning. Sponsored by The City University of New York (CUNY) Office of Academic Affairs and developed and offered by the faculty development team at the CUNY School of Professional Studies (CUNY SPS), the OTE is a 3-week workshop in which faculty learning communities study effective online course design and implement instructional best practices for online teaching.


As of Spring 2021, the over 2,000 CUNY faculty who participated in one of the six OTE sessions have taught more than 11,000 classes with a total seat count of 268,000.

Workshop Description

The 3-week OTE is conducted fully online and asynchronously in the Blackboard LMS, with activities and assignments organized within 6 modules. Participants gain first-hand experience of what it is like to learn online, including the flexibility of asynchronous instruction. The majority of activity takes place in small sections defined by field or discipline, made up of faculty from different participating CUNY campuses. Because faculty rely on their campus-based support services for their own teaching, OTE participants are also enrolled in a common course site that serves as a hub for discussions moderated by their campus LMS and Teaching and Learning experts. The hub hosts optional workshops on topics such as Open Educational Resources (OER), Trauma-Informed Pedagogy, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Accessibility, and Collaborative Online International Learning. The hub also serves as a meeting place where the OTE team facilitates daily live office hours to help faculty navigate the workshop and think through pedagogical and design questions for their own courses.

Structure of the Course

  • Module I: Understanding the Online Learning Environment
  • Module II: Structuring the Online Learning Experience
  • Module III: Communicating and Interacting Online
  • Module IV: Online Presence and Engagement
  • Module V: Effective Online Assessment
  • Module VI: Course Planning and Reflection

In each module, participants review resources related to the module topic, participate in asynchronous discussions with their colleagues, and complete practice exercises. Each discipline group is facilitated by experienced online faculty in the same or a similar field. The final project is a draft course schedule and syllabus that serve as a plan for teaching an online course. All of the workshop activities can be completed on the faculty participants’ own schedules within each module’s timeframe, modeling the flexibility offered by asynchronous online course design.

Faculty Learning Outcomes

Each participant who completes the course will:

  • Gain first-hand experience in and appreciation of the needs of an online learner
  • Identify widely accepted best practices for online teaching, including principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
  • Reflect on how to apply to one’s own course the instructional design principles, organizational and facilitation skills, and communication and assessment strategies introduced in the course
  • Become familiar with the basic operations and features of a Blackboard classroom from both student and instructor perspectives
  • Create a plan for building and teaching an online course

In workshop evaluation surveys, participants indicated that the OTE helped them achieve these learning outcomes, with average scores ranging from 4.33 to 4.58 on a 5-point scale.


The CUNY School of Professional Studies (CUNY SPS) has been leading online education in New York for over 15 years, and offers the most fully online bachelor’s and master’s degree options at The City University of New York. The CUNY SPS Office of Faculty Development and Instructional Technology (OFDIT) provides faculty with support, training, and resources needed to be successful and innovative online teachers.

Please contact Ruru Rusmin, Director of CUNY SPS OFDIT, or for any inquiries about the CUNY Online Teaching Essentials program.