Creating award-winning, high-impact learning experiences since 2003.

Daniel Stanford Facilitating Group Discussion
years of experience
courses and trainings developed
100 +

Case Study: DOTS Training


Recognizing a critical need to expand and improve online learning, DePaul University launched a new training program in 2008 to prepare instructors to design and teach effective online courses. The program, the DePaul Online Teaching Series or “DOTS,” would require participants to complete 40 hours of online and in-person training in selective-admission cohorts offered three times each year. Key objectives included:
  • Increase buy-in and model an ideal online learning experience for skeptical faculty who, in many cases, had never taken an online course before.
  • Increase online course quality and consistency across the university, moving beyond the existing model of online students watching recordings of face-to-face classes.
  • Increase the number of students taking online courses.

The success of early trainings was mixed, with participant satisfaction ratings swinging dramatically from one group to the next. In 2010, shortly before I took over the design and facilitation of the program, participant satisfaction had dipped to an all-time low of 28% and buy-in from key stakeholders was in jeopardy. 

After analyzing data from past trainings, I identified multiple solutions to improve participant satisfaction and program outcomes.
  • Provide more practical guides and templates. Participants felt the course placed too much emphasis on long, scholarly readings, so my team and I focused on developing concise tips, reusable examples, short videos, and other practical content while referencing relevant research to maintain credibility.
  • Increase opportunities for hands-on learning. Participants needed more time to practice using new technologies and applying new skills, so I restructured online resources and meeting agendas with this in mind. 
  • Leverage internal expertise. I added presentations and discussion panels with past DOTS graduates and current DePaul students to provide participants with key insights. I also increased trainee access to other instructors’ online courses to help them learn by example.
  • 138% increase in students taking online courses. Students taking at least one online course at DePaul rose from 13% in 2010 to 31% in 2019.
  • 88% of trainees have received a perfect score in instructional-design reviews. Internal committees use a standardized rubric to evaluate training deliverables and nearly all trainees meet or exceed expectations. 
  • Consistently high participant approval. Overall satisfaction ratings have exceeded 90% since 2012. 
  • Increased stakeholder buy-in. Demand regularly exceeds available slots for each offering.
  • Over 800 faculty trained. From 2008 to 2019, 36 cohorts were offered resulting in 32,000 collective hours of professional development.
  • National recognition. DOTS won the highly competitive Online Learning Consortium Award for Excellence in Faculty Development in 2012.
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Featured Projects

Teaching Commons

The DePaul Teaching Commons is an extensive repository of instructional resources accessed by tens of thousands of educators worldwide every month. As Director of Faculty Development and Technology Innovation, I led the design and maintenance of the Teaching Commons site, which includes resources related to teaching with technology, active learning, assessment, and inclusive instruction. The Teaching Commons YouTube channel contains more than 200 videos with practical tips on effective instruction. The video shown here is one in a series created to increase awareness of the unique challenges faced by first-generation students—those who are the first in their families to obtain a college degree. 

Global Learning Experience (GLE)

GLE training prepares DePaul University instructors to design and facilitate online collaborations between DePaul students and foreign students at universities abroad. The initiative was recognized with the Senator Paul Simon Spotlight Award for Campus Internationalization in 2020.

Featured Articles

Bandwidth Immediacy Matrix by Daniel Stanford

How Low-Bandwidth Teaching Will Save Us All

This article was published in March 2020 to encourage trainers and instructors to reconsider videoconferencing as a default solution for remote instruction in response to COVID-19. It quickly went viral within the instructional design community, receiving more than 40,000 page views in two months.
Illustration of instructor teaching

Learning Theories and Cognitive Psychology in Higher Education

This article provides an overview of fundamental learning theories and includes practical applications for instructors.

About Me

In 1999, I landed my first office job as a student worker at the University of Alabama Center for Public Television. One of my first assignments was to travel with the production crew and set up equipment during shoots for a documentary on Alabama’s covered bridges. Sadly, waking up early was never my strong suit, and I eventually slept through the 5:00 a.m. departure of a van bound for a bridge on the other side of the state. 

Fortunately, the director of that documentary didn’t give up on me. I happened to know HTML, and he happened to need help publishing instructional materials online that teachers could use when showing films like The Amazing Story of Kudzu in their classrooms. And, just like that, it was, “Goodbye, 5:00 a.m. van rides!” and, “Hello, late-night coding sessions.”

After finishing my B.A., I took a position as a web designer at an ad agency where I helped create the first virtual tour for the Birmingham Museum of Art. The project gave me hands-on experience with 360-degree cameras, panoramic-image-stitching software, and the process of filming objects for 3D interaction. Eager to learn more, I decided to enroll in a Master of Fine Arts program where I could focus on the intersection of technology and instructional design.

Since then, I’ve spent much of my career creating award-winning professional development programs and helping people learn how to teach more effectively in both online and face-to-face formats. I’ve had the opportunity to present at more than a dozen conferences around the world, I’ve co-authored a book chapter on designing effective professional development, and my work has been recognized by leading organizations in the fields of learning, development, and instructional technology. 

When I began managing online learning materials for UA’s Center for Public Television in 1999, I had no idea what an instructional designer was. I knew I loved educational media, and I knew I didn’t like waking up at 4:00 a.m., but I wasn’t sure how I could make a living by combining my love of technology and learning. Fortunately, by following my passion for great design and great teaching, I fell into a career that now feels like it was waiting for me all along.