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22st Annual OLC International Conference
November 16-18, 2016 | Orlando, Florida | Walt Disney World Swan/Dolphin Resort

OLC Innovate 2016 - Innovations in Blended and Online Learning
April 20-22, 2016 | New Orleans, LA | Sheraton New Orleans Hotel

Preparing Online Instructors: A Blended Approach to Effective Online Instruction

Kristi Dickey (Oklahoma State University, USA)
Additional Authors
Simon Ringsmuth (Oklahoma State University, USA)
Session Information
July 9, 2014 - 9:10am
Faculty Development & Student Support
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Best Practices
Institutional Level: 
Multiple Levels
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Governor's Square 17
Session Duration: 
50 Minutes
Information Session 4

Learn the secrets of successful online teaching from the creators of Oklahoma State University's Preparing Online Instructors program.

Extended Abstract

With additional post secondary educational institutions incorporating online instruction into their courses, and an increasing number of students enrolling in online or blended classes, it is critical that faculty are equipped with the tools and knowledge they need to present informative, effective, and engaging materials in an online format. Unfortunately, the educational tsunami of MOOCs, flipped classrooms, and online teaching has caught numerous institutions off guard and left faculty woefully unprepared to utilize the extensive technologies and teaching methods at their disposal to offer more effective instruction. Most college-level faculty have never taken an online or blended course, much less taught one, and as such they are often ill equipped to create the type of engaging learning environment that students today need in order to thrive. To address this problem, two teaching and learning support specialists at Oklahoma State University have spent the last year developing and implementing an innovative program called Preparing Online Instructors (POI). POI has been met with acclaim from not only the faculty who have participated in the course, but department heads and deans who have observed the increased quality of participants' own courses as a result. This conference presentation will demonstrate key concepts explored throughout the six-week duration of the POI, help attendees understand why the need for programs such as this are so critical in higher education today, and provide attendees guidance as well as how to implement similar programs in their own institutions.

POI immerses college faculty in a blended classroom environment for six weeks in which they enroll for the course, complete online assignments, and complete projects much in the same manner as any college student might do. In essence, it allows them to experience a blended learning environment firsthand so as to give them an informed perspective when presenting their own online classes. Participants follow a rigorous course syllabus, which includes regular weekly assignments; attend two on-campus meetings; and participate in a series of online discussions facilitated by the participants themselves, all of which serve to create a microcosm of a full-fledged blended learning environment. It is through this experience that faculty not only learn about and acquire practical experience with a myriad of technologies and teaching strategies, many of which are entirely new to them and often have a transformative impact on their instruction, but also learn and grow as a community of intellectuals.

Our approach to solving the problem of helping faculty become better online educators involves spending each of the six weeks focusing on a key issue relating to their instruction: student engagement, technology tools, effective course activities, assessment strategies, copyright and intellectual property, and constructing a syllabus. To explore these issues, various peer-reviewed research articles, supplementary websites, and Ko's and Rossen's book titled, "Teaching Online: A Practical Guide" (2010), are used as the course materials. Participants are asked to complete assignments like discovering and evaluating various online technology tools, creating or adapting an assignment for delivery in an online environment, and using new technologies to create a multimedia reflection of their experience in the course. Two face-to-face meetings are held during the course in which participants engage in lively topical discussions and learn to work together in small groups. However, much of the learning in the POI program occurs not from reading a textbook or journal articles, but from the online discussion board where participants exchange ideas and raise new questions about various topics and their implications for online teaching. Participants are tasked with creating discussion prompts based on the course readings. Each participant must take a turn serving as a facilitator to keep the discussion flowing. Throughout the course the instructors also aid participant learning by participating in the discussions, recording video updates regularly, and providing feedback on students' assignments using multimedia and web 2.0 tools. By the time students finish, they not only have a repertoire of new knowledge, tools, and skills that can assist them when teaching online, but a fresh perspective that many of their peers lack.

Our presentation, through the use of demonstrations, screenshots, and examples from previous POI courses, will cover not only the assignments and activities we use in our course but also the methods we use to deliver all the content. We believe that effective teaching involves modeling and setting expectations, and as such we try to model in our class what we expect any good online teacher will replicate. We will discuss how we go about creating a sense of community and connection among our students, why it is necessary for online instructors to be active participants in the discussion board and other online communication forums, and the importance of holding regular virtual office hours using technologies such as text-based chat and Google+ Hangouts. According to Delaney, Johnson, Johnson, & Treslan (2010), instructor responsiveness is the second most important quality of an effective online instructor, ranking just behind respectfulness, but we have found that many online educators neglect this component of their instruction. By giving participants the chance to experience online education from a student perspective, they see firsthand how critical it is for their instructors to be responsive and involved in their learning. We believe that this type of instructor involvement is critical to the success of any online course, and our presentation will demonstrate practical methods by which this can be accomplished.

Participants in this conference session will gain an understanding of how our POI program has transformed the teaching of faculty members at Oklahoma State University. They will see examples of the assignments we use, the feedback methods we employ, and the successful methods by which we engage participants through online discussion. After attending this session, participants will have a solid understanding of what we do to prepare our faculty to teach online, and how they can design and implement similar programs at their institutions.

Delaney, J. G., Johnson, A. N., Johnson, T. D., & Treslan, D. L. (2010) Students' perceptions of effective teaching in higher education. St. John's, NL: Distance Education and Learning Technologies.

Lead Presenter

Kristi Dickey is currently a Teaching Support Specialist at the Institute for Teaching and Learning Excellence at Oklahoma State University.