This effective practice offers distance learning programs a clear path to affordable, effective instructional technology training using student assistants and no-cost web resources. At San Jose State's School of Library and Information Science, we trained 8 graduate student assistants in the use and best practices of a new learning management system, Desire2Learn or D2L. We then asked them to train distance faculty individually in these best practice using Elluminate (now Collaborate) web conferencing software and to provide ongoing technical and instructional support. Before training, faculty were asked to view Captivate tutorials covering the basic use of D2L that would provide a foundation for the more advanced one-on-one sessions with our student trainers. According to a post-training faculty satisfaction, student reporting and reviews of the online courses this training proved successful and provided a positive, productive experience for both faculty and students. Faculty felt they received valuable training from knowledgeable individuals, students participated in meaningful professional development and online teaching and learning in our program was improved through this collaboration between two of our major stakeholders, students and faculty. By substituting free online applications, such as Collaborate V rooms and Jing, for more costly software and scaling your student assistant needs according to program size this practice is replicable at most any institution.
In 2011 San Jose State University's fully online School of Library and Information Science transitioned from the ANGEL learning management system (LMS) to Desire2Learn (D2L). With only a few months and a restricted budget at our disposal, we trained 200 distance faculty offering 230 fully online course sections in the best use of this new learning environment. Our training strategy began with online Captivate tutorials that faculty would watch to get a basic understanding of how the LMS worked. This was followed by individual faculty training sessions run by graduate student assistants (GSAs) using the web conferencing software Blackboard Collaborate (then Elluminate) to present best practices in the new LMS. GSAs then offered ongoing technical and instructional support through Collaborate, Skype and via short video tutorials made with Jing. We also offered group workshops on advanced practices and tools in the LMS via Elluminate, developed and delivered by our GSAs. GSAs were trained within the LMS, where they each built an entire course of their own using a series of exercises developed by the LMS administrator. This week-long orientation familiarized GSAs with the different instructional tools of the LMS, gave them hands-on experience with instructional design and technology, and ultimately provided them with an exemplary course they would share with the online instructors during training. Rather than dictate the content of their example courses, we had them follow the best practices and techniques using their own content. Courses ranged from an overview of Ibsen to Zombies 101. This gave faculty some insight into the GSA assistants while personalizing the learning experience for GSA trainers. It also previewed the autonomy GSA trainers would have throughout the project as part of their professional development. To get the GSAs up to speed on the web conferencing software, we asked them to pair up and role play, presenting tools from the LMS to each other as instructor/trainer. They recorded the sessions and had the lead GSA, who had previous experience with the software, review them and provide feedback. This prepared the GSAs for the one-on-one training sessions each would later schedule with their distance faculty. We also created a discussion board in our training course within the LMS where GSAs could post questions, suggestions or concerns regarding the project, the LMS or any other technical or instructional issue. This board was a continuously active place that allowed both the supervisor and other GSAs to answer questions and provide moral and professional support - an important consideration when working with employees you may never meet face-to-face. While this project used a number of technologies available through our institutional licenses, such as Adobe Captivate and Elluminate/Collaborate, free tutorial software applications could easily replace these for-cost programs. Jing or Screencast-O-Matic, which allows up to 10 minutes of screencasting at no cost, represents an excellent alternative to Captivate. Our GSAs used Jing spontaneously on their own initiative during the support phase of the training project as an incredibly effective help tool for distance faculty needing specialized instruction on specific practices or aspects of the LMS. This introduction of emerging technologies into the training program was one of the many benefits we discovered from using GSAs, especially those in the library and information science field. Another benefit of using student assistants was the collaboration of GSAs and instructors on the incorporation of best practice into online courses. Having a student available during course development and content re-organization after course migration allowed instructors to gain insight into student use and perception of the LMS, online content delivery, and assessment and assignment design. Best practices for the LMS were constantly developed and refined based on student and instructor feedback in coordination with the LMS administrator. GSAs may have initially been used as a cost saving measure that provided professional development for our students, but they also quickly became key contributors to instructional design, directly increasing stakeholder representation and collaboration. High rates of faculty satisfaction with the training, as recorded in our post-training survey given in Fall 2011 using Qualtrics, highlight this as a mutually beneficial and positive partnership. Before the beginning of each term, all upcoming courses were reviewed for key best practice implementation by the GSA and spot checked by the LMS administrator. Courses lacking specific features identified as fundamental best practices - functioning gradebooks, well organized course content and discussion boards, student access to synchronous meeting rooms - were flagged and instructors were presented with possible remedies by their GSAs. Overall, the quality of the courses was perceived as very good, although instructor response to GSA requests for best practice fixes at this point was spotty. Based on the faculty satisfaction survey, GSA self-reporting, and review of new courses in the LMS this training methodology proved to be successful during a major instructional technology transition in one of the largest distance programs in the country. SLIS continues to use GSAs to train new distance faculty using the process described here, to the benefit of instructors, students and the program's bottom line.
A faculty survey measuring satisfaction with the training and best practices as presented by graduate student assistants was distributed Fall 2011, immediately following the initial round of training sessions. 87 faculty responded to the survey with overwhelmingly positive results. 96% of respondents stated that training on best practices for use in the LMS was very valuable or valuable to their online teaching. 91% responded that best practices were very valuable or valuable when building an online course in a LMS, indicating training in best online teaching and learning practices, along with the technical aspects of instructional technology, should be included at a programmatic level during training of distance faculty. According to reporting by GSAs, approximately 75% of faculty completed 2 training sessions, almost 85% of participating faculty completed at least one training session. These numbers signify a desire by distance faculty to engage in professional development in regards to online teaching and instructional technology use. Review of course sites by LMS administrator and GSA allowed for some measurement of best practice adoption and quality control of course construction. However, results for this outcome are difficult to measure due to the variety of ways individual faculty and GSAs applied best practices to courses. It was generally observed that core best practices - such as uniform web pages for content delivery, interactive discussion boards, and linking assignments and assessments to automatically updated gradebook - were adopted in most courses. Recommendations for changes to courses for better alignment to best practices were sent by GSAs upon review. Percentage of faculty that responded by making changes to their online course was not recorded. Student satisfaction surveys are needed to further understand and evidence the impact of this training on online learning and ease of LMS use by distance students in this program. However, because a change of LMS necessarily coincided with this training, measurement of increased student user satisfaction is problematic. Increased satisfaction with the LMS versus best practice adoption would be difficult to distinguish.
*Learning Effectiveness:* This practice assures that faculty have documented training in best online teaching practices using a particular LMS or other institutionally adopted instructional technologies. Instructors design their own online courses with individualized instructional and technical support representing the equivalent, or in the case of many adjunct faculty, exceeding that available on-campus. This is measured by a faculty survey determining satisfaction with training experience and comfort with the LMS. *Scale:* This project included the training of over 200 distance faculty offering over 230 fully online courses, proving the scalability of the practice. The innovative use of distance graduate students and freely available web 2.0 technology meant sustainable affordability for the program, which has continued over the last 3 semesters. Department chairs, directors, faculty, staff and students were all represented as key stakeholders in the planning and implementation of the practice, including refinement of the process over time based on faculty and student feedback. *Access:* The inclusion of students in the process of online learning best practice development and implementation is an integral part of this practice. Faculty and knowledgeable students work together to construct courses, arrange materials and plan course delivery. This improves access to quality online courses for students via good course management and organization. Feedback from surveys indicates faculty enjoyed the process and will continue to use the knowledge gained during this exchange in future courses. *Faculty Satisfaction:* 96% of the 86 faculty responding to our user survey indicated they would recommend this type of training to others. 91% stated they found the experience very valuable or valuable to their online teaching. *Student Satisfaction:* The graduate student assistants that worked on the project all expressed satisfaction with the experience. All indicated that they would stay with the project as long as their academic careers allowed (student assistants must resign at graduation). Many forged bonds with faculty that continue beyond their involvement with the project and GSAs continue to give instructors input on course design while training new distance faculty entering the department. Unfortunately, student satisfaction surveys regarding the LMS, courses and best practices have not yet been carried out.
A variety of solutions are available to implement these training practices, many of them affordable or completely free. These include: * Collaborate, free Collaborate V Rooms or Skype used for synchronous, interactive training sessions * Captivate, Jing or Screencast-o-Matic for tutorial recordings * Qualitrics or SurveyMonky for user feedback * Use the Learning Management System or Google Sites to share information and document control
*Equipment/Software Cost:* No costs beyond the institutional cost of the LMS are required in regards to equipment or software. Although this particular example uses Elluminate/Collaborate and Adobe Captivate but there are plenty of no-cost online alternatives to these programs - * If you don't have Collaborate at your institution, individuals can get a free Collaborate V Room or use Skype for synchronous, interactive training sessions * If you don't have Captivate, use Jing or Screencast-o-Matic for tutorial recordings * Our survey was done with Qualtrics, but Google Forms or SurveyMonky collects user feedback as no cost * Use the Learning Management System or Google Sites to share information and for document control *Personnel Cost:* * There will be some cost associated with time taken by LMS administrator or other staff to interview and supervise graduate assistants. However, this will likely be offset by the support and training services provided by the graduate students. * For this project graduate students were paid for approximately 20 hours of time during Spring/Fall semester and 40 hour during the summer. Wages and hours will vary by institution. A more affordable solution may be year-long unpaid internships. However, the quality of work and commitment from interns versus paid student assistance could be a significant variable.
Faculty Satisfaction Survey Results (PDF) as cited above