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Moving From "Sit and Get" to Fully Online: Our Experience Making Faculty Development Awesome!

Crystal Gasell (CU Online, USA)
Patrick R. Lowenthal (Boise State University, USA)
Session Information
October 14, 2015 - 11:45am
Faculty and Professional Development & Support
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Practical Application
Institutional Level: 
Universities and Four Year Institutions
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Southern Hemisphere III
Session Duration: 
45 Minutes
Concurrent Session 1
Virtual Session

"Sit and get" workshop don't work. Learn how CU Online transformed faculty development and is now training faculty to design and teach online courses.

Extended Abstract

During 2014, the growth of online learning slowed (Allen & Seaman, 2015). However, administrators at institutions of higher education still report that online learning remains a main area of growth in the coming years (Allen & Seaman, 2014; Carlson, 2003). As a result, colleges and universities continue to develop new online courses and programs (Allen & Seaman, 2015). This increase in new online courses and programs, though, presents institutions with the challenge of finding experienced faculty to teach these new online courses. Faculty generally agree that good teaching is good teaching (McDonald, 2002? Ragan, 1999). But faculty who have taught online are quick to point out that teaching online is different from teaching in a face-_to-_face classroom in many ways (Palloff & Pratt, 1999; Salmon, 2000). Faced with this reality, institutions have tried various ways to train faculty to successfully teach online (Stes, Coertjens, & Van Petegem, 2010).

The University of Colorado - Denver has used a number of techniques to train faculty to teach online (see Lowenthal & Thomas, 2010). Many of these initiatives have focused on getting faculty together face-to-face because expressed a preference for short face-to-face workshops. While these workshops received positive evaluations, we questioned whether this was the best method for faculty development. For instance, within fifteen minutes of a workshop with a dynamic trainer, the majority of the room--even those who expressed anxieties about teaching online--would be off task (e.g., some checking email, some working ahead of the trainer, some scrolling their Facebook feed). Further, adjuncts who had fulltime day jobs were never able to attend. In this presentation, we will present how we addressed these problems by focusing on a single goal, how to make faculty development awesome!


The University of Colorado - Denver is a research intensive university with 17,000 students. CU Online is a centralized unit that manages the learning management system and academic technology support for the entire university, as well as provides grant opportunities for online program development.

For the past 17 years, CU Online has supported faculty interested in teaching online. While faculty consistently acknowledge CU Online as an asset to the university, the increase in online courses coupled with observations of low faculty engagement in current workshops led CU Online to change how they approach faculty development by eliminating "sit and get" trainings for good. The following questions guided the transformation.

How can CU Online better engage busy faculty in professional development?
How can CU Online leverage online learning platforms to maximize faculty time on task?
How can CU Online model best practices for online course design and online teaching?


In Summer of 2014, CU Online piloted a 10-week, fully online, faculty training program to prepare faculty to teach online called "Online Skills Mastery" (OSM; pronounced "Awesome"). OSM differs from other popular approaches to online faculty development in two important ways. First, OSM focuses on teaching faculty about online course design and online teaching during the same online workshop. Second, OSM uses a badging program to reward faculty for their success. The badges are used to validate competencies and skills by faculty and serve as markers of achievement in the area of online learning.

Some key features of the program's success include:
Time on Task: 30 hours of instruction, over 10 weeks.
Modeling: Facilitated by a seasoned online faculty member.
Student Experience: Faculty are students
Peer Review: Faculty conduct a peer review of each others courses.

To evaluate the success of the program, data is being collected about faculty (who in this case is the learner) satisfaction and their continued success in subsequent courses. Faculty also evaluate their own learning through formal assessments and a reflective narrative.


Over a year later, 70 faculty have successfully completed the OSM program. OSM is recognized in the 2015 Horizon Report for Higher Education as advancing change and innovation. Faculty who have completed OSM report more confidence in their ability to teach using technology as well as higher end-of-course evaluations. Past participants explain:

"The OSM is a very supportive and convenient way to become better at online course design and teaching online."
"While I have been doing this a while, I learned a lot. For total newbies, I think it really walks you through the main components of successful online teaching."
"It has been a tough few months, but worth it. How? Why? I see the proof in my online class already!"

Session Details

In this session, participants will get an exclusive peek at the Online Skills Mastery program, hear about ways to successfully navigate the delicate world of faculty as students, and participate in an ongoing discussion about how to maximize faculty development. Participants will also have a chance to share how their institutions prepare faculty to teach online. By the end of the session, participants will walk away with new ideas of how to make their own faculty development awesome!


Allen, I. E., & Seaman, J. (2014). Grade change: Tracking online education in the United
States, 2013. Babson Survey Research Group and Quahog Research Group.

Allen, I. & Seaman, J. (2015). Grade level: Tracking online education in the United States.

Babson Survey Research Group and Quahog Research Group.

McDonald, J. (2002). Is "as good as face _to _face" as good as it gets? Journal of Asynchronous Learning Environments, 6(2), 10_-23.

Lowenthal, P. R., & Thomas, D. (2010). Digital campfires: Innovations in helping faculty
explore the online learning wildness. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 6(3), 665-672.

Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (1999). Building learning communities in cyberspace. San Francisco: Jossey_-Bass.

Ragan, L. C. (1999). Good teaching is good teaching. An emerging set of guiding principles and practices for the design and development of distance education. Cause/Effect, 22(1), 20_24.

Salmon, G. (2000). E_-moderating: The key to teaching and learning online. London: Kogan

Stes, A., Coertjens, L., & Van Petegem, P. (2010). Instructional development for teachers in higher education: Impact on teaching approach. Higher Education, 60(2), 187 - 204.

Lead Presenter

Crystal Gasell, Academic Services Manager at CU Online, is a trainer, doctoral student, and educator. At CU Online, Crystal’s primary focus is to expand the training and support programs offered to faculty and students at the University of Colorado - Denver. Additionally, she is a doctoral student at Boise State University with an interest in online faculty development and how faculty development impacts course quality and student success.


Questions asked by the Virtual Audience but unanswered during the live session, have been answered by the presenter below: 


Q 1. Have you compared tenured faculty to instructors in the passing/not passing rate?

A. No, but this is something we will look at in future research.

Q 2. Talk about initial stages of OSM design? Did you conduct an analysis?

A. CU Online has been providing training for online faculty for the past 17 years. We have a pretty good handle on what our faculty need in terms of the transition from f2f to online. That being said, we did look at various different models of online training and consulted with groups that had created similar trainings. Built into the model is the opportunity for faculty to provide feedback on the course and we make adjusts based on the feedback. We are currently collecting data for an analysis of the effectiveness of the program.

Q 3. How did you market to adjunct faculty?

A. We have a monthly newsletter that goes out to all faculty, we do the normal stuff too - flyers, posters, etc. Honestly, the biggest marketing tactic is word of mouth.

Q 4. Do you see the training evolving into an online teaching cert?

A. Great idea! We currently have an information learning technologies program and I believe they have a certificate already. We are considering offering this course - or a portion of it - as a MOOC.

Q 5. How do you attract course facilitators from other institutions? Compensation?

A. Most of the facilitators are people we have met along the way. For example, my co-presenter Patrick use to work at CU Online before moving to Boise State. I also reach out to people I meet at conferences like this one! We do provide compensation based on the number of participants in the course. If you are a seasoned online instructor and are interested in teaching OSM for us, please email me about your interest and provide a copy of your vita. crystal.gasell@ucdenver.edu