A Multidimensional Model for Training Faculty to Teach Online

Author Information
Author(s): 
Dr. Cheryl Schauer-Crabb
Institution(s) or Organization(s) Where EP Occurred: 
Elon University
Effective Practice Abstract/Summary
Abstract/Summary of Effective Practice: 

With increased demand from students in 2001, to supplement standard curriculum course offerings on Elon University’s residential campus, the registrar and disciplines across campus discussed methods to best serve student needs online over the summer hiatus. The Summer College @Elon pilot program began in 2002 with 12 courses, and has grown to 65. Since its inception, courses have only been offered during the summer for Elon undergraduates. As the pilot flourished and became a pillar of Elon’s summer course offerings, the training program evolved to meet faculty needs.

This cost-effective, replicable and scalable multidimensional model for training faculty to teach online incorporates consultations, conversations, a self-paced Moodle course, peer mentoring, and technology support. The focus of our multidimensional model is on acquiring skills critical to teaching online. Estimated cost for a cohort of ten faculty is $1,000; this includes eight lunch meetings and individual coffee consultations.

Faculty members are supported by instructional designers, instructional technologists, multimedia developers, videographers, and e-learning specialists. The support team creates video and multimedia tools for course engagement and assessment. In addition, they provide guidance and train faculty in new technologies for course integration (i.e. screencasting, Wordpress, audio and video editing, PowerPoint).

Additionally, equipment is reserved for online faculty specifically for course enhancement (i.e. webcams, microphones, portable flip video kits, tablets, styli); other mechanisms on campus are in place for equipment purchase. This supportive infrastructure is a critical element of the training efforts by Elon University’s Teaching and Learning Technologies.

Seven mechanisms are used to ensure effectiveness:
1. assessment in the Moodle course
2. individual faculty meetings to discuss the training program and student assessment results
3. focus groups
4. blog readership
5. the number of support calls the Technology Help Desk received
6. course offerings
7. faculty retention at 99% rate of return to the program

Description of the Effective Practice
Description of the Effective Practice: 

With increased demand from students in 2001, to supplement standard curriculum course offerings on Elon University’s residential campus, the registrar and disciplines across campus discussed methods to best serve student needs online over the summer hiatus. The Summer College @Elon pilot program began in 2002 with 12 courses, and has grown to 65 courses in 2014. Since its inception, courses have only been offered during the summer for Elon undergraduates. As the pilot flourished and became a pillar of Elon’s summer course offerings, the training program evolved from two instructional designers consulting individually with each faculty member to a multidimensional process.

This cost-effective, replicable and scalable multidimensional model for training faculty to teach online incorporates consultations, conversations, a self-paced Moodle course, peer mentoring, and technology support. Faculty members who teach online for Elon University, regardless of previous online teaching experience, complete a four month blended training program and are required to have taught the course previously in a face-to-face environment. The focus of our multidimensional model for training is on acquiring skills critical to teaching online through individual guidance, discussion, application activities, pedagogical exploration, and technology mastery. There are five segments:

1. consultations
2. lunch conversations
3. a self-paced asynchronous Moodle course
4. peer mentoring
5. technology support

The pedagogy of teaching online and Moodle training are combined into this comprehensive program. A description of each segment follows.

Consultations
The role of the instructional designer is critical to multidimensional model to online training. The close working relationship between the instructional designer and faculty members begins nine months before the course is taught and reinforces the fact that support is available when needed.

Faculty interact with the instructional designer regularly and receive personalized feedback and suggestions regarding student evaluations, course modifications, feedback on assignments and modules, and the organizational framework of the course. Individual consultations also help to ensure consistency between courses and across programs since there is no standardization for courses on campus. The Quality Matters course design standards serve as a baseline for consultations and course modification.

Faculty are encouraged to keep a journal noting their thoughts regarding revisions for the following iterations of the course, hurdles, and how assignments or topics could be modified for future consultations with the instructional designer. This serves as a springboard for conversations and anecdotal evidence of transformative teaching.

Lunch conversations are modeled after Vanderbilt’s Center for Teaching Course Design Working Groups:
http://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/course-design/. They emulate Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe’s book, Understanding by Design (2005). Backwards design and student-centered learning environments offer a powerful framework for designing courses with outcomes of “enduring understandings” for students and working backwards to design evidence of that understanding.

Sessions occur from February to May, a timeframe suggested by faculty as most convenient. Conversations explore in depth course development, design and assessment, and compares traditional face-to-face teaching with online pedagogy. These collaborative cross-discipline conversations provide faculty with continuing opportunities to learn from each other. These sessions are consistent in regards to content, requirement, deliverables and activities from year to year to ensure consistent outcomes.

Additionally, there is a practical and applicable emphasis in the topics covered which are: syllabus construction, effective quiz question development, best practices in design, implementation, assessment, activities modification, integration of web and library resources, classroom and time management, virtual guest speakers, effective faculty and student communication, multimedia integration, and rubrics. Each lunch conversation provides opportunities for the new-to-online faculty to showcase portions of their course under modification. There is no standardization on campus for courses, but each online course meets benchmark standards in technology, interaction, and assessment.

To celebrate faculty completing their first online course, the last lunch meeting showcases their deliverables. The online community is invited to the event, as are deans and departmental chairs.

Moodle complements the overall training experience with application and experimentation assignments. In this self-paced asynchronous site available February through May, in-depth discussions are facilitated on topics covered in the face-to-face conversations. The cohort contributes to dynamic discussions where they reflect on the relevance and application of the course material to their own teaching situations, and key issues about teaching and learning online based upon current literature. Teaching Online: A Practical Guide, by Ko and Rossen (2010) is one springboard for discussion in the Moodle forums.

The site has modules for novice, intermediate, and advanced Moodle users to progress through culminating in an assessment. The course illustrates, demonstrates, and discusses advanced teaching strategies, challenges, best practices, current research, and trends. Included are videos and examples sharing how to use specific techniques in online teaching featuring our faculty.

Throughout the final weeks of the training course, faculty are constructing their course in Moodle: writing discussion questions, constructing activities to assess student achievement aligned with the learning outcomes, embellishing with screencasts and videos, integrating multimedia developed by the training team, and finding online tools and resources to re-purpose. Completion of the Moodle training course assures faculty they have built a solid foundation for their own online course. Additionally, faculty have experienced learning online, contributed to discussions, viewed grades, submitted assignments, completed tests, and navigated the site successfully.

Peer mentoring and review parallel the pedagogical philosophies of online teaching and learning communities. Peer review of teaching is a widely accepted mechanism for promoting and assuring quality academic work.

The mentor selection process is subjective; the instructional designer identifies and invites two faculty members to serve as mentors to the online community with each new cohort. Invitations are extended to faculty based upon the online student feedback survey results (which are discussed individually in consultations with the faculty), creativeness of technology usage, and success of the course. Mentor responsibilities include:

• Contribute to the Moodle discussions
• Share resources and open online course for others to explore
• Facilitate one lunch meeting
• Serve as a point of contact for questions, advice about teaching, pedagogy, and Moodle
• Integrate a new technology tool into the course
• Review online courses and provide feedback

Peer mentoring is the conduit between the lunch conversations and Moodle course. Faculty are paired with an online mentor with whom they can confer and conduct course review. This component of the training program affords faculty the opportunity to think thoughtfully about the best way to transform their face-to-face strategies and practices to the online environment.

Technology support
Faculty are supported by instructional designers, instructional technologists, multimedia developers, videographers, and e-learning specialists. This supportive infrastructure is a critical element of the training efforts by Elon University’s Teaching and Learning Technologies. The support team creates video and multimedia tools for course engagement and assessment.

In addition, the support team trains faculty in new technologies for course integration outside of the five part training program in screencasting, Wordpress, audio and video editing, PowerPoint, and other tools as requested. Additionally, equipment is reserved for online faculty specifically for course modification (i.e. webcams, microphones, portable flip video kits, tablets, styli); other mechanisms on campus are in place for equipment purchase. This supportive infrastructure is a critical element of the training efforts by Teaching and Learning Technologies.

Faculty and students are supported through email, Moodle, and 24/7 assistance from the Technology Help Desk should any technologies issues arise during the summer online program. Faculty and students inquiries decreased significantly over the past seven years. This year there were less than 8 support calls placed to the Technology Help Desk as compared to over 40 seven years ago.

Supporting Information for this Effective Practice
Evidence of Effectiveness: 

At Elon the multidimensional model has been successful in preparing faculty for their first online teaching experience. The training provides faculty with a solid understanding of online education while simultaneously pairing them with experts to assist with course modification and the adjustment to the online environment. The continuous technology support ensures that faculty receive just-in-time assistance as well as group training. The online courses meet the same benchmarks and expectations as the residential courses. A well trained and supported online faculty is an important component in online education and encourages faculty success.

Seven mechanisms are used to ensure effectiveness:
1. assessment in Moodle
2. individual faculty consultations to discuss student assessment results
3. focus groups
4. blog readership
5. number of support calls the Technology Help Desk received
6. course offerings
7. faculty retention

Assessment in Moodle
Each section in the self-paced Moodle course is evaluated and faculty score high on the assignments and quizzes. Evaluation questions assess course content, technology, design, specific exercises from the lunch sessions, and assignments.

Individual faculty consultations to discuss student assessment results
At the conclusion of summer college, the online facilitator meets with each faculty member to assess their overall experience online, the information in their journal, the effectiveness of the training, and the feedback from the student assessment survey. The feedback from students and faculty has been positive and consistent for the past 7 years.

Focus groups
Faculty overwhelmingly indicated during the focus groups that learning to organize and section their content into varied modes of delivery, having the ability practice new strategies with technology support readily available, and having access to mentors contributed to overall teaching effectiveness and higher levels of confidence in the virtual environment. Interestingly, faculty also reported that the training prepared them “exceptionally well” for the experience and it changed the way they organize and facilitate their face-to-face course.

Blog readership
Elon relies on technology early adopters to provide inspiration among the faculty. The Technology Blog, blogs.elon.edu/technology/author/ccrabb/ features innovative faculty experimenting with technology discovered from individual consultations and interviews, as well as information about teaching online from current research and trends.

All lunch meetings are written into a post for future online faculty and those interested in adding online components to their face-to-face courses. Blog analytics and retweets indicate significant internal and external readership following these posts.

Course offerings
However, the true testament to the effectiveness and success is the continued expansion of summer college and the influx of new faculty applying to teach. In 2002 the pilot program had 12 online courses and in 2014 there were 65 offered.

Faculty retention
The effectiveness of the training program is indicated by the 99% return rate of instructors to the summer online program. Faculty members with full-time rank are eligible to teach in the program.

How does this practice relate to pillars?: 

Elon’s training program relates directly to Learning Effectiveness, specifically faculty development and course design.

To support faculty with varying technology skills and comfort levels as they learn to teach online, acquiring enhanced pedagogical skills for online learning environments through a supportive infrastructure is important. Teaching and Learning Technologies provide extensive technical and supportive resources along with a continuous consultation and evaluation process conducted by an instructional designer to ensure mastery of skills required for effective online teaching. The same instructional designer facilitates continuing conversation between and among faculty and academic support personnel.

A key component of the asynchronous learning is to help faculty understand what it means to be an online learner. The online discussions are built around planning, communication, evaluation, and course management. As the faculty progress through the Moodle course, they create components for their own courses and receive feedback from peers, mentors, and course facilitators. By sharing ideas and interaction with peers, mentoring, and discussions, faculty benefit from the sense of community and increased confidence.

Equipment necessary to implement Effective Practice: 

The room used for meetings is a part of the Teaching and Learning Technologies department. It is outfitted with whiteboards, a projector, laptop hook-up cables, audio, internet, and a Smartboard. Furniture is flexible allowing for multiple room configurations and lighting is adjustable for videography. Software used was free and includes Screen-cast-o-matic, Audacity, and PowerPoint.

Estimate the probable costs associated with this practice: 

Training faculty in a cohort of approximately 10 each annually is scalable and replicable. An initial investment of time and resources must be made to design and create content for the training program. Costs will vary depending on the availability of existing training content, staff experience creating content and the scope of the training course. All members of our team subsumed their online support efforts within their existing job responsibilities.

Criteria to teach online include the course was previously taught in a face-to-face environment and faculty have full-time rank. This significantly decreases resources needed for course design. All lunch conversations are about course development and modification. Estimated cost for eight lunch meetings, focus group conversations, and individual consultations over coffee is $1,000.

References, supporting documents: 

Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. M. (2010). The Online Teaching Survival Guide: Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips (1st ed.). San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
Ko, S., & Rossen, S. (2010). Teaching Online A Practical Guide. (3rd ed.). New York: Routledge.
Quality Matters. (2010). Quality Matters Program. Retrieved from https://www.qualitymatters.org/rubric
Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by Design (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: ASCD

Contact(s) for this Effective Practice
Effective Practice Contact: 
Dr. Cheryl Schauer-Crabb
Email this contact: 
ccrabb@elon.edu