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It's a TOTAL Package! Providing Flexible Professional Development to Faculty

Joan Osborne (Northern Virginia Community College, USA)
Session Information
October 16, 2015 - 10:45am
Faculty and Professional Development & Support
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Practical Application
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Theory/Conceptual Framework
Institutional Level: 
Multiple Levels
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Northern Hemisphere E2
Session Duration: 
45 Minutes
Concurrent Session 10

Overview of a flexible, interactive, and engaging set of professional development workshops for faculty who teach (or wish to teach) online.

Extended Abstract

Would you like to share ideas on how to address ongoing faculty professional development based on current research and best practices in online teaching and learning? This presentation will provide an overview of the Topics in Online Teaching and Learning (TOTAL) project's flexible professional development solution, and how it addresses the needs of Virginia Community College System (VCCS) faculty who teach online or blended courses. I will show you our fourteen short interactive and engaging workshops, created in Blackboard, that address the competencies (both facilitation and design) necessary to support student success in online learning. I'd then love to hear about your college's approach to providing faculty professional development and see how it compares to our TOTAL approach.

Online learning is an increasingly important option in higher education. However, courses cannot be taught the same way online as they are in the traditional classroom. Activities need to be redesigned, and faculty need to discover and develop new pedagogical strategies that take advantage of the strengths of technology and the online environment. Simply put, teaching online is different than teaching in the traditional classroom and faculty need training to do this well. The TOTAL program's primary goal is to provide quality training to faculty on designing and teaching online or blended courses.

Professional development needs differ from institution to institution, depending on the degree of support for online learning and other contextual variables. For example, the course design skills needed by online faculty may be different for colleges with and without instructional designers on staff. Similarly, individual faculty come to the online environment with different levels and kinds of classroom and online teaching experience, and with a variety of skill sets and skill gaps. Therefore, a flexible solution for developing online instructors is necessary so that colleges can provide the type of competencies most often needed by their faculty members, and individual faculty can obtain the competencies they need without sitting through professional development they don't need.

The TOTAL project team developed a flexible professional development system to address the needs of faculty who teach online or hybrid courses. Based on current research and best practices in online teaching and learning, the team designed and developed fourteen short interactive and engaging workshops. The workshops address the competencies (both facilitation and design) necessary to support student success in the online learning environment. All of the workshops are facilitated online in the Blackboard learning management system and involve reading/viewing of resource materials, application assignments, and interaction with colleagues. Workshops vary in length between two and four weeks. Each workshop requires about 5 hours of work a week by participants. Assignments are due weekly (sometimes midweekly) and are graded. Those who complete all assignments and achieve an 80% or higher average receive a VCCS certificate of completion. See the TOTAL Project website (https://sites.google.com/a/email.vccs.edu/vccs-total-project/) for an overview of the program and descriptions of the workshops.

The TOTAL project represents an innovative effort to employ and integrate two existing VCCS systems, Blackboard and the Knowledge Center system administered by the Commonwealth of Virginia, to manage and deliver professional development to faculty throughout the system. The TOTAL project team created templates in Blackboard for all fourteen professional development workshops, along with procedures and guides for administration and facilitation of the workshops. The team also created a unified database and set of procedures for registration, results, and certification for all TOTAL workshops using the Knowledge Center system. From registration, to Blackboard site preparation, to facilitation of the workshop, grading, and certification, the TOTAL program is consistent in all VCCS institutions. The workshop templates in Blackboard, the course registration framework in Knowledge Center, and the database of faculty certifications, are shared among all twenty three colleges.

Instructional materials created as a part of the project are designed to be easily replicated and used by all twenty three VCCS colleges. The workshops are hosted in the Blackboard learning management system as course templates. The workshops use a consistent best practice layout, and follow the nationally recognized Quality Mattersª standards. To make the workshops easy to use, the TOTAL team developed and followed a consistent layout and style, included setup and facilitation notes, and documented procedures for managing all phases of the professional development process.

In addition to planning, developing, and piloting these workshops, the TOTAL project team also devised processes for registering and crediting faculty with achieving the noted competencies. Project personnel successfully developed an infrastructure and process to make use of the Knowledge Center to manage courses, sections, instructors, students, and certificates of completion between colleges. Although the actual workshops and their associated content are facilitated and maintained within Blackboard, the Knowledge Center provides a seamless mechanism for issuing certificates of completion and maintaining participants' transcripts so that faculty who teach at multiple VCCS colleges can give their supervisors access to their records. Completion of each workshop earns a participant the same certificate of completion signed by the VCCS Chancellor wherever he or she takes the workshop.

The TOTAL project team chose a consortium strategy to implement the TOTAL professional development system. Smaller colleges in the VCCS have difficulty implementing professional development for a number of reasons. One challenge is to find qualified faculty or staff to facilitate professional development. Another challenge is to ensure enough faculty and staff participation to make a professional development event a rich and worthwhile learning experience. Grouping colleges of varying sizes into consortia that share workshops allowed workshops to draw from a larger potential pool of facilitators and participants. Colleges within a consortium build a master calendar of TOTAL workshops, recruit and train faculty to facilitate workshops for all consortium members, and pool their participants. The TOTAL team has successfully formed four consortia, involving fourteen VCCS colleges, which are currently sharing workshops.

Members of the original grant-funded project team continue to work together to keep the workshop materials current and to continue to promote their viability within the Virginia Community College System.

Lead Presenter

I am an Instructional Technologist at Northern Virginia Community College. My main task is to develop and deliver robust professional development for faculty and staff at Northern Virginia Community College. This includes delivering training in Blackboard skills, hybrid instruction, best practices for teaching online, workshops to familiarize faculty and staff with the nationally recognized Quality Matters standards and course review processes, as well as to provide training for other instructional technologies including Blackboard Collaborate, Google Apps for Education, Panopto, Web 2.0 tools, mobile technologies, Microsoft Office for teaching and learning, etc. In my role, I develop, deliver, and maintain training in various formats including credit-based courses, online workshops, synchronous webinars, self-paced just-in-time modules, simple instructional handouts, and guided tours through existing training via Atomic Learning or Lynda.com.