Fostering an Engaged Community of Online Faculty: The Online Teaching Showcase

Author Information
Author(s): 
B. Jean Mandernach
Institution(s) or Organization(s) Where EP Occurred: 
Grand Canyon University
Effective Practice Abstract/Summary
Abstract/Summary of Effective Practice: 

 

There are indisputable benefits to the applied, practitioner perspective that adjunct faculty bring to the online classroom. However, as a natural function of contingent employment, geographically-dispersed online adjunct faculty report less of a psychological connection and commitment to the university. This challenge, coupled with the reality that many adjunct instructors lack a background in pedagogy, compel institutions to create opportunities uniquely suited to foster engagement, teaching effectiveness and a sense of community for online adjunct faculty. The Online Teaching Showcase was created to promote effective teaching by providing a venue for interactive, faculty-to-faculty sharing of best practices in the online classroom.
Description of the Effective Practice
Description of the Effective Practice: 
Traditional professional development models are an inefficient (and ineffective) means of supporting adjunct faculty teaching online courses. The challenge lies in expanding the scope and focus of programming to meet the needs of a diverse faculty body comprised of full-time, adjunct, face-to-face, and online faculty. Key factors in this shift involve: changing the culture of adjunct faculty, increasing engagement in the university community, promoting investment in professional development initiatives, scheduling, access and scalability of initiatives.
To promote growth and development in these key areas, the Online Teaching Showcase (OTS) was created to provide a forum for the scholarly exchange of best practices in virtual education. Designed to foster instructional effectiveness, OTS features experienced online faculty sharing strategies that optimize learning and engagement in the online classroom.
Unique to OTS is the online, time-limited, asynchronous nature of interactions that provide a forum for professional exchange not limited by the traditional conference confines of time, location or funding. As such, OTS attendees and presenters have the flexibility to login to the conference showcase at their own convenience, download or archive select presentations, and view presentations with respect to specific interests. The 2011 Online Teaching Showcase can be viewed at: http://cirt.gcu.edu/teaching/ots/2011ots
The goals of the Online Teaching Showcase are:
  1. To enhance the quality of online instruction through the dissemination of effective teaching strategies.
  2. To encourage scholarly dialogue about best practices in online instruction and assessment among faculty teaching online.
  3. To increase awareness of the range and diversity of innovative instructional and assessment strategies available in the online classroom.
OTS presentations include both an audio and visual component, but there are no formal requirements concerning the technical format or the media utilized to create the presentation. As such, presentations formats include: videos, audio-narrated PowerPoints, video-supplemented PowerPoints, PDF with embedded audio/video supplements, Voicethreads, and similar structures that allow for a combination of visual and auditory communicative strategies.
Each presentation is allowed 10 minutes. Presenters also provide a 1-page handout for download by conference attendees, 150-word presentation abstract, 100-word author bio, and .jpg author photo. Conference attendees are able to view all presentations, comment, and download handouts via the Internet.
Supporting Information for this Effective Practice
Evidence of Effectiveness: 

The inaugural Online Teaching Showcase featured best practices presentations of six online faculty. The presentations have been viewed over 1000 times by the faculty community. In addition, the Online Teaching Showcase has generated a host of unsolicited feedback highlighting the following themes:

  1. Appreciation of the online adjunct faculty that they have been asked to contribute to the intellectual climate of the university rather than being only on the receiving end of faculty development initiatives.
  2. Satisfaction in the quality of best practices ideas highlighted by the Online Teaching Showcase with an explicit appreciation for the applied value of the presentations.
  3. Developing community of faculty expressing appreciation for "meeting" other online faculty and feeling a sense of connection to those also working online.
  4. Requests for additional programming as a function of ideas and strategies presented in the Online Teaching Showcase.
How does this practice relate to pillars?: 

Faculty virtually attending the Online Teaching Showcase have reported increased satisfaction with their role as online faculty members and have expressed an increased awareness of best practices relevant to teaching online. Of utmost importance, the online faculty participating in the Online Teaching Showcase indicate that they feel more invested and involved in the university community as a function of having the opportunity to participate in the intellectual conversations surrounding effective online teaching at our institution.

Equipment necessary to implement Effective Practice: 

Universities interested in hosting a similar showcase would need webspace and access to a relevant social networking platform to foster community among faculty. 

Estimate the probable costs associated with this practice: 

The costs would be dependent on the web space, software and programming already available at each institution.

References, supporting documents: 

Please see the Online Teaching Showcase website at: http://cirt.gcu.edu/teaching/ots

Contact(s) for this Effective Practice
Effective Practice Contact: 
B. Jean Mandernach
Email this contact: 
jean.mandernach@gcu.edu