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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

A Blended Approach to Faculty Development: Preparing Adjunct Faculty for Teaching Success

Amber L. Vaill (Becker College, USA)
Additional Authors
Betsy Fuller (Becker College, USA)
Session Information
July 7, 2015 - 3:30pm
Faculty Development & Student Support
Areas of Special Interest: 
Institutional Initiatives
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Innovation and Experimentation
Institutional Level: 
Multiple Levels
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Governor's Square 15
Session Duration: 
50 Minutes
Concurrent Session 2
Virtual Session

Providing adjunct faculty with online and on campus options for training can increase their comfort level in the classroom and improve the student experience.

Extended Abstract

Like many colleges and universities, Becker College relies on adjunct faculty members to teach many of our courses, both online and on campus. Adjuncts are well-qualified experts in their subject area and have real-world experience in the field, which makes them excellent resources for students; however, many adjuncts do not have formal training in how to teach or they may not have experience in the classroom.

In order to make sure adjunct faculty are prepared for teaching at the College, Becker has been providing a twice-annual Adjunct Faculty Workshop. This live session is held in the evening and provides information about college policies, technology, and how to obtain assistance when needed. Each adjunct is required to attend once per year. While this gives adjuncts an introduction to important information, the administration felt it was necessary to expand upon the types of professional development that are made available to faculty, specifically to adjuncts.

As a means to improve the skills of adjunct faculty and ensure that all are entering the classroom with the same foundation of basic teaching skills, Becker College implemented a blended approach to faculty development which provides adjuncts (and any full-time faculty interested in taking part) with some flexibility and options for how they will be prepared for their teaching assignments at the College. Because most adjuncts may teach for other institutions and/or have full time jobs, it was essential to consider their schedules and limited availability when creating a training program that would fit into their busy lives and provide them with the skills and information they need.

During the spring 2014 semester, development commenced on a series of online faculty development courses. Two courses were completed in that semester, Canvas Basics, which focuses on introductory information about using the Colleges LMS, and Strategies for Teaching College Students, which covers a wide variety of topics from Blooms Taxonomy and learning objectives, to working with students, to creating activities and assessments. These courses were piloted with adjuncts teaching in the business department during the summer of 2014, and launched to all adjuncts teaching within the traditional undergraduate programs at the College prior to the start of the spring 2015 semester. As an incentive to get faculty to complete the course, adjunct faculty successfully completing the Strategies for Teaching College Students course before the January 2015 deadline received a pay raise beginning with their spring class stipends. The Canvas Basics course was made optional for current faculty, and both courses are now mandatory for all newly hired adjuncts.

Since the start of the program, 146 faculty members have been enrolled in the Strategies for Teaching College Students course. Of those, 68 have successfully completed as of this writing. In a survey of participants who completed the course, 90% agreed to the statement I feel better prepared to teach my next course (n=59). Qualitative feedback was also collected in the survey and will be used to make improvements on the course for future semesters. Overall, participants were pleased with the experience in the course. The College plans to provide additional online training offerings for all faculty in the future, on subjects such as teaching online and developing online courses.

In order to continue providing faculty with varied options for training, additional face-to-face workshops are regularly offered on campus. In addition to the face-to-face Adjunct Faculty Workshop, a series of specialized instructional technology workshops are offered on campus at the start of each semester, giving all faculty access to training in specific tools that they may be interested in using in their classroom. At the start of the spring 2015 semester, workshops were provided on topics such as iPads, Google Apps, the Canvas LMS, and lecture capture options. Workshops like these will continue to be offered at the start of each semester to help faculty keep their skills current and learn about new tools they can use in the classroom.

This presentation will focus on sharing our approach and our successes, and will dig deeper into the data collected through the pre- and post-course surveys completed by the faculty participants. Lessons learned and specifics about the type of content covered in the course will be shared with attendees with the goal of providing them with information they can use to launch similar programs at their institutions.

Lead Presenter

Amber L. Vaill brings an extensive background in online education to her current position as Instructional Designer at Becker College. Before joining the team at Becker, Dr. Vaill led the Center for Online Learning team at Bay Path College from 2007 - 2013, and previously served as a secondary-level classroom and online teacher.
She began her career in online education working with such K-12 educational organizations as The VHS Collaborative (formerly Virtual High School), International Baccalaureate, and Aventa Learning. Through her work in these organizations, she gained experience developing and teaching online courses, designing and facilitating online faculty development programs, creating online student orientations, mentoring new online instructors, and serving as a curriculum coordinator for an Advanced Placement social studies program.
At Bay Path College, Dr. Vaill helped to establish the Center for Online Learning. She developed the student orientation course that is required for all online students at the College, as well as the faculty development program for all online faculty. She provided oversight of the Center for Online Learning team, providing pedagogical training and ongoing support for online faculty and preparing and supporting online learners.
In recent years, Dr. Vaill has presented at numerous conferences, including Educause, the Sloan Consortium and NERCOMP, on topics including online faculty development, supporting students through a transition to a new learning management system, and the importance of online student orientations.
Dr. Vaill holds a Ph.D. in Education with an e-Learning specialization from Northcentral University. She also holds an M.Ed in History Education and an M.Ed in Curriculum and Instructional Technology.