What Have We Learned?


Converting to Online Teaching
A series of short guidance articles for educators and institutions


By John Cable, Director

Project Management Center for Excellence
A. James Clark School of Engineering
University of Maryland

College Park, Maryland, USA


At the University of Maryland, when the campus closed suddenly in March 2020 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, all classes moved to the online environment. This was not a problem for the graduate courses offered by the Project Management Center for Excellence.  Our faculty regularly teaches both on campus and online courses so each instructor has an extensive library of previously recorded lectures and uses our LMS (Canvas) for assignments for both on campus and online courses. The graduate faculty have years of experience facilitating virtual classes, discussion groups, and assignments so the sudden switch to all online was literally seamless.

Our undergraduate courses, however, have all typically been taught on campus so only a few of the instructors had experience teaching an online course. That is when I began writing a series of short guidance documents to assist them in transitioning to a 100% online environment. You can view all the articles on my Directors Blog.  In addition to writing those guidance documents, we conducted a series of quick hands-on demonstrations via Zoom to assist them in recording short lecture videos and posting them in our LMS so students could review the materials prior to attending the live virtual class. Many of our faculty applied for and received grants from the university’s Provost to fully prepare their courses for the virtual teaching environment. They used the summer of 2020 for this preparation and by the 2020 fall semester, all of our faculty were prepared to teach in the virtual environment.  Responses from students have been very positive with many students now preferring to take our courses online, even if they live on campus!

As we prepare to return to some version of “normal”, meaning classes are scheduled to be back on campus this Fall, I asked our faculty what they have learned over the past 18 months that they will incorporate into their in-person campus courses. What I heard loud and clear is “let’s not return to the way we taught before the pandemic; let’s apply what we have learned to have an even better learning experience for our students and faculty.”

You may have noticed that there have been a lot of educational articles recently about moving forward and not being stuck in the past. With that thought in mind, I would like to share with you some feedback from our faculty about what they have learned and how our team will operate moving forward.  Bear in mind that in addition to teaching online, our instructors use the ‘flipped classroom’ philosophy which uses class time for active learning assignments as discussed in my September 2020 article, Blended Learning Classroom Guidance

Our Faculty Feedback

  • Zoom is under rated! It has some distinct advantages over live classes.
  • The virtual environment has advantages in hosting guest speakers. They can be anywhere and don’t have to travel to campus. It opens us up for global guests!
  • Intuitively, my sense was a higher level of student participation during online sessions than in the classroom.
  • Students favored the ability to have recorded class discussions to refer to in the event they missed class or wanted to refer back on certain topics.
  • What did I learn from teaching online? My only lesson is that it works! It almost seems to work better as the students who don’t want to get up in front of class are more willing on Zoom.
  • The “breakout room” feature in Zoom is very efficient.  When I wanted to have a group breakout session in a live class, the students would have to change seats.  Do you leave your laptop on your original seat or take it with you?  Do you take your coat with you or leave it in the original seat?  Sounds easy but it is a little disruptive.  On Zoom, it takes a few seconds and is effective.  Going back to your original seating is seamless.  Also, on Zoom, it lets the teacher join in a breakout room without the other rooms hearing it.
  • Student’s desire asynchronous interactive engagement outside of the classroom.  Canvas discussion boards are not as conducive for these as other technologies like Yellowdig[1].
  • Using Yellowdig as a discussion platform that is integrated into the structure of the course was very successful. The result was increased student engagement not only with the course content but with each other. For more information on Yellowdig see our article: Can You Increase Student Engagement
  • Moving back to campus I plan to fully adopt the flipped classroom approach and use class time for applying the concepts covered in the readings and lecture videos.
  • The nice thing about breaking a 2 ½ hour lecture into several smaller videos is that it is easy to make updates on the fly without having to re-record long lectures.
  • The short videos seem to keep the student’s attention much better. And, if there is content they want to revisit, it is quick for them to find the lesson module.
  • I really enjoyed the online environment – more so than I thought I would. I see great value in not spending class time lecturing. Having those videos accessible before our in-person time – i.e. best of both online and in person – is something that I plan to try in the Fall when we are back on campus.


To read entire article, click here

Editor’s note: This series of articles by the Director of the University of Maryland’s Project Management Center for Excellence provides information and advice for converting from traditional in-person classes to online teaching, based on their experience before and during the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020.

How to cite this paper: Cable, J. H. (2021). Converting to Online Teaching: A series of short guidance articles for educators and institutions – What Have We Learned, PM World Journal, Vol. X, Issue VIII, August. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/pmwj108-Aug2021-Cable-converting-to-teaching-online-16-what-have-we-learned.pdf

 About the Author

John Cable

Director, Project Management Center for Excellence
University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA


 John Cable is Director of the Project Management Center for Excellence in the A.James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland, where he is also a professor and teacher of several graduate courses in project management. His program at the University of Maryland offers masters and PhD level programs focused on project management. With more than 1,300 seats filled annually with students from many countries, including more than 40 PhD students, the program is the largest graduate program in project management at a major university in the United States.

John Cable served in the newly formed U.S. Department of Energy in 1980, where he was involved with developing energy standards for buildings, methods for measuring energy consumption, and managing primary research in energy conservation.  As an architect and builder, Mr. Cable founded and led John Cable Associates in 1984, a design build firm. In 1999 he was recruited by the University of Maryland’s Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering to create and manage a graduate program in project management. In his role as founder and director of the Project Management Center for Excellence at Maryland, the program has grown to offer an undergraduate minor, master’s degrees, and a doctoral program. Information about the Project Management Center for Project Management at the University of Maryland can be found at www.pm.umd.edu

In 2002, PMI formed the Global Accreditation Center for Project Management Educational Programs (GAC).  Mr. Cable was appointed to that inaugural board where he served as vice chair.  In 2006, he was elected as chairman, a role he held through 2012.  As Chair of the PMI GAC, John led the accreditation of 86 project management educational programs at 40 institutions in 15 countries in North America, Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and the Asia Pacific Region. John was awarded PMI’s 2012 Distinguished Contribution Award for his leadership at the GAC.  He can be contacted at jcable@umd.edu.

To view other works by John Cable, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/john-cable/

[1] https://www.yellowdig.co/



  1. […] This article appeared in PM World Journal, Vol. X, Issue VIII, August 2021. […]