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22st Annual OLC International Conference
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How to Evaluate Online Teaching and Improve Faculty Development

Thomas Tobin (Northeastern Illinois University, USA)
B. Jean Mandernach (Grand Canyon University, USA)
Ann Taylor (Penn State University - College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, USA)
Session Information
October 16, 2015 - 11:45am
Faculty and Professional Development & Support
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Practical Application
Institutional Level: 
Multiple Levels
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Southern Hemisphere I
Session Duration: 
45 Minutes
Concurrent Session 11
Virtual Session

Faculty and administrators: learn six use-them-now evaluation strategies and tools from the authors of the new book, Evaluating Online Teaching.

Extended Abstract


The growth of online learning has created an opportunity to re-examine teaching practices through a scholarly lens. The review and evaluation of teaching practices in general are sometimes performed in a pro forma fashion, or only for summative reasons like promotion and tenure decisions. Donna Ellis at the University of Waterloo sees teaching-evaluation as a holistic enterprise: "teaching and its assessment should . . . be seen as scholarly activities. The review of teaching is an intentional process--one that is carefully designed, situated in context, and leads to interpreting teaching effectiveness based on multiple sources and types of evidence" (2012). Online courses offer us a rich variety of information sources from which to study and improve our teaching practices and develop our faculty.

When faced with the need to evaluate online teaching, colleges and universities often jump directly to locating (or creating) an evaluation rating form. Unfortunately, this is one of the last steps--not the first--in designing an effective evaluation of online teaching. Before you can determine exactly what activities and behaviors you want to measure in the online classroom, you must take a more holistic perspective and address context-specific perspectives, factors, and considerations that will shape the evaluation process. The reality is that the best evaluation tool in the world will not be effective if it can't be implemented in a consistent, efficient manner that meets the needs of both the individual faculty members and the administration.


The evaluation of online teaching raises questions unique to the medium, questions that faculty members and administrators in higher education often don't have guidance or experience in resolving. Most learning management systems (LMSes) now record every click that students and faculty members make. This presentation will help participants to

* determine what online content and practices "count" as teaching behaviors,
* separate hype from useful information about data analytics in the LMS, and
* create campus policy and procedures for using online data for teaching evaluation.

The facilitators of this session literally wrote the book on how to do this effectively: _Evaluating Online Teaching _ was published in June 2015. Come to this presentation to learn how to evaluate the online teaching at your campus.

Expected Outcomes

Participants in this session will be able to

* define unique and measurable qualities of online teaching.
* design self-, peer-, and administrative-evaluation analytic tools.
* implement a six-stage campus-wide program for evaluating online teaching.

Participants will learn formative evaluation strategies that can help them to improve their teaching practices. Campus leaders will learn summative evaluation metrics they can use to make hiring, promotion, and tenure decisions based on online teaching.

In addition, this presentation will highlight a six-stage life-cycle for campus-wide evaluation of online teaching, including team building, context setting, instrument design, and communication planning. Participants will leave the session with a clear understanding of the best practices in evaluating online teaching, with a special focus on the project-management and process-management tools needed in order to create a solid, measurable, data-driven evaluation program.

Lead Presenter

Thomas J. Tobin is the Coordinator of Learning Technologies in the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) at Northeastern Illinois University. In the field of online-teaching evaluation, he is best known for his work on administrative-evaluation practices and policy development; his article on "Best Practices for Administrative Evaluation of Online Faculty" (2004) is considered a seminal work in the field, and has been cited in more than 150 publications. Since the advent of online courses in higher education in the late 1990s, Tom's work has focused on using technology to extend the reach of higher education beyond its traditional audience. He advocates for the educational rights of people with disabilities and people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Tom serves on the editorial boards of the _Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration_ and the _Journal of Interactive Online Learning_, and he speaks and publishes in many areas related to distance education, including copyright, institutional project management, academic integrity, universal design for learning, and evaluation of teaching practice.

B. Jean Mandernach's research focuses on enhancing student learning through innovative online instructional strategies, integration of emergent technology, and evaluation of online teaching. As the director of the GCU teaching and learning center, Jean's scholarly and professional work is dedicated to fostering effective, innovative, scholarly teaching. In addition to her mentoring activities, Jean publishes research examining online assessment, perception of online degrees, integration of emerging technologies in the online classroom, and the development of effective faculty evaluation models.

Ann H. Taylor has worked in the field of distance education since 1991, focusing on learning design and faculty development. As the director of an institute focused on learning design for distance education, Annie guides her college's strategic vision and planning for online learning. She works with various stakeholders to plan and implement online degree and certificate programs tailored to the needs of working adult professionals. Annie serves on numerous university committees focused on strategic planning, policies, and procedures related to the university's distance learning initiatives, and has been a member of the Penn State University Faculty Senate since 2007.

The three presenters are the co-authors of the just-published book _Evaluating Online Teaching_ (Jossey-Bass, 2015).