Enhancing Faculty Development Through Integrating the Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository

Award Winner: 
2013 Sloan-C Effective Practice Award
Author Information
Kelvin Thompson, Ed.D.
Baiyun Chen, Ph.D.
Institution(s) or Organization(s) Where EP Occurred: 
University of Central Florida
Effective Practice Abstract/Summary
Abstract/Summary of Effective Practice: 

The faculty development programs, instructional designers, and individual teaching faculty of the University of Central Florida have found affordances in integrating into their work the online teaching practices codified in the Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository (TOPR). The faculty development programs, instructional designers, and individual teaching faculty of other institutions can just as readily benefit from integrating TOPR entries into their work as enhancements to existing faculty development strategies. TOPR is freely available online under the terms of a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 3.0 unported license at http://topr.online.ucf.edu.

Description of the Effective Practice
Description of the Effective Practice: 

The University of Central Florida (UCF) is one of the fastest-growing universities in the country, currently ranked as the second-largest public institution in the US with approximately 60,000 students. To meet students’ needs, over 30% of the university's student credit hours are generated by online and blended courses and nearly three-fourths of all UCF students take one or more online courses every year. As a result, the need for faculty development for online teaching has been increasing in recent years. The Center for Distributed Learning (CDL) at UCF provides a variety of faculty development offerings to meet these needs, including semester-long training programs, webinars, individual instructional design consultations, self-directed learning objects and others. It is a challenge to keep the professional development materials updated and streamlined. Further, as the number of individual faculty teaching online and blended courses at UCF and the associated number of instructional designers serving them has grown, it has been challenging to identify and disseminate emergent effective teaching practices. One initiative, the Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository (TOPR), is an effort to solve these challenges: http://topr.online.ucf.edu.

The Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository (TOPR) is a public resource for online faculty and instructional designers seeking inspiration from online teaching strategies that have proven successful for others. We at UCF took the learning practices that we endorsed to our faculty member in our professional programs and featured them on TOPR. These strategies get updated by collaborating contributors on a regular basis and we link to these strategies in our faculty development programs. TOPR has also become a handy resource for UCF's instructional designers to use in individual consultations with faculty or email responses. After instructors hear about TOPR, they save the resource as one of their favorite bookmarks and come back to these strategies when they need new ideas for online teaching.

In the Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository (TOPR), each entry describes a strategy drawn from the pedagogical practice of online teaching faculty, depicts this strategy with artifacts from actual courses, and is aligned with findings from research or professional practice literature. Emphasis is placed upon practices that are impactful and replicable. TOPR entries are tagged with relevant keywords to aid discovery of relevant content. Additionally, site visitors may also find entries by searching or by browsing a topical index. The index of published teaching practices from TOPR is available at: http://topr.online.ucf.edu/index.php/Pedagogical_Practice.

The Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository (TOPR) is offered within a wiki which makes contribution and collaboration very easy, and all entries are provided as open resources under the terms of a Creative Commons license. Thus, faculty development programs, instructional designers, and faculty from other institutions can readily adopt and adapt TOPR entries for their needs.

Supporting Information for this Effective Practice
Evidence of Effectiveness: 

Specific entries from the Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository (TOPR) are linked to from within UCF’s internal faculty development materials (e.g., LMS-based materials for UCF’s award-winning IDL6543 faculty development course) and external resources (e.g., the publicly accessible http://BlendedLearningToolkit.org site presented by UCF and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities). UCF instructional designers report sharing resources from TOPR routinely in consultations with teaching faculty. Anecdotally, some individual instructors have noted consulting TOPR for ideas. However, it is perhaps more telling to look at some of the evidence that has emerged outside of the UCF context.

The Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository (TOPR) was presented to a national audience for the first time at the 2011 Sloan-C ALN Conference. The theoretical underpinning and development background were presented in that presentation and may be reviewed at: http://ofcoursesonline.com/?p=132. Since then, promotion of TOPR has continued, and an editorial board comprised of leaders in online and blended learning from the US and Canada has been formed. (See http://topr.online.ucf.edu/index.php/Board.) The following evidence of TOPR use has emerged since that time.

While the exact number of institutions and individual faculty connecting to TOPR is infeasible to determine, it is clear that TOPR is proving useful beyond UCF. For instance, some other institutions include links to TOPR in their online resources. (See http://www.wabashcenter.wabash.edu/resources/teach-web-result.aspx?pid=3..., http://teach.granite.edu/?p=8983, and http://edtech.uvic.ca/edci335/wiki.) The statistic page for one custom url for one TOPR entry reveals that this entry has been accessed hundreds of times from multiple countries. (See https://bitly.com/discussion_rubrics+.) The easily citable TOPR entries have even appeared in research articles (e.g., http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/winter154/eskey_schulte154.html) and at least one dissertation (i.e., http://ufdcimages.uflib.ufl.edu/UF/E0/04/43/67/00001/JOHNSON_M.pdf).

As of August 2013, the most popular of the 33 public TOPR entries (e.g., related to discussion rubrics, social networking, and discussion prompts) have each received tens of thousands of page views. (See http://topr.online.ucf.edu/index.php/Special:Statistics.)

The evidence above would seem to suggest that the practice of leveraging the online teaching practices codified in TOPR for use in faculty development materials, instructional designer consultations, or individual instructor inquiry is a practice that is both replicable and potentially effective in supporting the Sloan-C pillars.

How does this practice relate to pillars?: 

Integrating practices from the Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository (TOPR):
1) Enables scale by allowing more online instructors and instructional designers to learn about effective online strategies.

2) Increases access by providing an open access online compendium for faculty development. Other institutions can link to TOPR in their professional development programs; instructional designers can recommend strategies to instructors with concrete examples; instructors can also use TOPR as a just-in-time resource whenever they need new strategies for their classroom.

3) Improves faculty satisfaction by providing faculty with open access to professional development resources that they can use in their daily classroom teaching. Since each strategy includes a detailed description and artifacts to support how the strategy is used in real classes, instructors can easily replicate these strategies in their own teaching.

4) Improves learning effectiveness by providing instructors with effective online strategies that are supported by literature.

Equipment necessary to implement Effective Practice: 

There are no extraordinary equipment costs associated with this practice. UCF maintains the Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository (TOPR). Contributors offer entries under the terms of a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 3.0 unported license. Other institutions, instructional designers, and instructors can use TOPR with computer and internet access.

Estimate the probable costs associated with this practice: 

Costs associated with replicating this practice are negligible and equate to the opportunity costs of one's time in searching for practices of relevance within the Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository web site and applying them to one's work.

References, supporting documents: 

See attached and the links included within the evidence section.

Contact(s) for this Effective Practice
Effective Practice Contact: 
Kelvin Thompson, Ed.D.
Email this contact: 
Effective Practice Contact 2: 
Baiyun Chen, Ph.D.
Email contact 2: