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This Is the Dawning of the Age of the Online Course: Reimagining Introduction to Theatre

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New Directions in Teaching Theatre Arts


Since its 2015 pilot, Florida State University’s fully online Introduction to Theatre for Non-Majors (THE2000) has become a poster-child for FSU’s respected distance-learning programs. Our case study offers the dual perspectives of co-designers Elizabeth Osborne, professor of THE2000, and Shelby Lunderman, teaching assistant. In this article, we outline the pedagogical goals and administrative details of THE2000, then focus our experiences on the day-to-day running of this large, general education course by delving into two major areas: the culminating course assignment (a.k.a., the Outreach Project) and the discussion boards. In so doing, we use our failures and successes to frame best practices for others charged with reimagining Introduction to Theatre courses in an online format.

Our article explores questions of pedagogical framing, daily experiences, and practical issues of course creation. How might we balance the communal liveness and ephemerality of theatre with the solitary and fixed nature of an online course? How can we continue to challenge students to think critically and grow to appreciate and engage with cultural diversity? How can we build community and compassion in the virtual classroom? How can technology enliven the course? And, as a much larger goal, how might this course demonstrate to the university administration that theatre is a unique and vital component of the liberal studies core and higher education as a whole?

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  1. 1.

    “Quality Matters Rubric Standards,” 2014. The Quality Matters rubric is created by the Quality Matters company and requires the purchase of an institutional membership. FSU’s Office of Distance Learning has adapted many of these resources for instructors creating online courses, and applies the rubric to all online courses before they officially open to students.

  2. 2.

    The Office of Distance Learning, with departments in online course creation , testing, budgeting, Blackboard, and a recording studio and editing specialists, served as a vital part of the course creation . My contacts there, including liaison Annette Jones, Blackboard specialists Scott Bickley and John Braswell, and Media Specialist Daniela Hernandez, have all proved invaluable.

  3. 3.

    For further information on constructivism, see also Virginia Richardson’s other works, including “Constructivist Pedagogy.” For a broader discussion of teaching theatre as an integral part of a liberal arts program, see Nancy Kindelan’s Artistic Literacy.

  4. 4.

    For additional discussion board strategies, see also Tisha Bender’s Discussion-Based Online Teaching to Enhance Student Learning, Andria Young’s “Structuring Asynchronous Discussions to Incorporate Learning Principles in an Online Class,” Kathleen King’s “‘We Want to Be Heard’: Using Instructional Technology to Resist Student Silence,” and Robert Wright’s Student-Teacher Interaction in Online Learning Environments.

  5. 5.

    We use Formstack in THE2000 because the School of Theatre already subscribes to their service, but many similar tools exist. For an example of how we have used Formstack to streamline communications, see


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Correspondence to Elizabeth A. Osborne .

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Osborne, E.A., Lunderman, S. (2018). This Is the Dawning of the Age of the Online Course: Reimagining Introduction to Theatre. In: Fliotsos, A., Medford, G. (eds) New Directions in Teaching Theatre Arts. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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