Open SUNY Interested in Teaching Online? a large-scale online faculty readiness resource

Author Information
Author(s): 
Alexandra M. Pickett
Institution(s) or Organization(s) Where EP Occurred: 
Open SUNY Online Teaching
Effective Practice Abstract/Summary
Abstract/Summary of Effective Practice: 

The Interested in Teaching Online? resource is a large-scale online faculty professional development initiative intended to reach the largest most diverse group of potential online faculty in SUNY.

The Open SUNY Online Teaching unit has developed a free self-paced openly-licensed resource for those interested in learning more about teaching online. The aim of the Interested in Teaching Online? course is to provide an entry point for anyone interested in online teaching, that lowers barriers, and provides a way to address online faculty readiness, self-assess the necessary fundamental technical skills, dispel misperceptions, and to provide online faculty, staff, and student perspectives on effective online teaching. This unique resource provides a system-wide approach to develop common understanding about what it means to teach online across institutions, departments, and disciplines, and is intended for administrators, deans/department chairs, librarians, technologists, faculty developers, online student support staff, faculty and instructional designers that allows us to reach tens of thousands of prospective online practitioners systematically and consistently on a very large scale. Our original problem/challenge was how to increase the number of faculty in SUNY interested in teaching online.? While 6000 online SUNY faculty have already been successfully trained, and the scale of online learning at SUNY is extensive, to take online education to the next level in SUNY we needed a way to reach the 27,000 faculty not yet engaged in online teaching in SUNY. The Interested in Teaching Online? resource is a large-scale online faculty professional development initiative intended to reach the largest most diverse group of potential online faculty in SUNY. Providing a unique self-paced online resource allows us to consistently and systematically professionally develop and prepare cohorts of potential and interested faculty with a fundamental understanding and set of skills to be successful online on a large scale.

Description of the Effective Practice
Description of the Effective Practice: 

BACKGROUND
Since 1994, Open SUNY Online Teaching via The Open SUNY Center for Online Teaching Excellence (COTE), formerly the SUNY Learning Network, has been developing online faculty and building a diverse community of online practitioners on a large scale with a great deal of positive and significant success, earned a number of awards and recognitions, trained more than 6000 faculty at all levels and disciplines to teach online, and developed and mentored more than 300 online instructional designers.

During the 2016/17 academic year 6,096 SUNY faculty members taught at least one course online.

. Today Open SUNY offers:

  • 66 Open SUNY+ programs from 20 campuses.
  • 528 online degrees or certificates from 44 campuses
  • 22,190 annual online course sections 2016-17
  • 177,000 + online student enrollments 2016-17

In 2013, we began the design of Open SUNY to take online teaching and learning at SUNY to the next level, and targeted system-level initiatives to strategically leverage online education to address student access, completion, and success. Open SUNY COTE was designed to focus on system-level faculty supports and initiatives targeting online competency development, online course supports, online community of practice, and research and innovation. We were charged with expanding the scope of online practitioners beyond online faculty and instructional designers to include anyone that support aspects of online education such as technologists, librarians, concierges, administrators, developers, and with thinking of new ways to engage these newly formalized roles in aspects of community, engagement and contributions, and competency development.

The design of Open SUNY included formalizing existing roles among our expanded community of online practitioners, and defining paths for each role that include opportunities to demonstrate membership, engagement and professional development. We defined 6 formal “roles:” Interested in online-enabled education, Experienced Online Practitioner, Expert Online Instructional Designer, Online Teaching Exemplar, Coach, and Mentor, Online Innovator/Researcher, and Friend of SUNY.

SUNY has enjoyed tremendous success in online faculty development. Our online faculty development model, approaches, online course design innovations, online course quality rubric, resources and tools have been recognized nationally and internationally. Online faculty and student satisfaction are high and online faculty perceptions and attitudes about online teaching and learning are higher than nation-wide averages. However, while 6000 SUNY faculty have been successfully trained over the last 20 years to teach online, SUNY has 33,000+ full time faculty. The pool 27,000+ faculty yet involved in online teaching in SUNY are identified as potential online faculty to take online education to the next level in SUNY. A campaign to develop a large-scale common entry point for anyone interested in learning more about online teaching emerged.

Our challenges:

  1. How do we get faculty interested in teaching online?
  2. How can we help those who may be interested in teaching online determine if online teaching is a good fit for them?
  3. How do we systematically and consistently reach a very large diverse audience with a positive comprehensive overview of teaching online?
  4. What are the core competencies necessary for success in teaching online?
  5. How can we ensure that prospective online faculty have a common set of the requisite technical skills to be successful in an online environment?
  6. How can we promote a common understanding of online education within SUNY and establish common language and definitions with which to talk about online education within the Open SUNY context?
  7. How can we address skepticism, assumptions, and dispel common misconceptions regarding online learning?
  8. How can we introduce an overview of the various online pedagogies and models of online course development, faculty development that exist in Open SUNY?
  9. How can we promote an understanding of the benefits and affordances of the online teaching and learning environment?
  10. How can we support online instructional designers to be most effective in their online faculty professional development activities?
  11. How can we assist those that support online faculty or students to understand what is relevant and unique in online education?

A team of SUNY campus volunteers was brought together from across the system in 2014 to define the key issues and fundamental competencies prerequisite to teaching online, a team of experts was engaged to review the work and provide feedback on the team’s recommendations.

A set of fundamental competencies were identified to give faculty and online instructional designers a baseline for the prerequisite skills, knowledge and attitudes necessary before beginning any online faculty development or online course design activities. The purpose of the initiative was to lower barriers of potentially interested faculty and provide relevant information about online education.

The target audience is anyone in SUNY (and beyond – as an openly licensed resource) who is interested in learning more about online instruction and for those who might be curious to see if teaching online might be for them. Those interested might or might not have some limited experience in online teaching, and would not necessarily be those who are currently scheduled to develop or teach an online course. This would provide an informal entry point for anyone who wants to learn more targeting the fundamental online teaching competencies.

Objectives/Goals:

  • Provide an online teaching readiness inventory as a self-assessment for the prerequisite technical skills necessary to be successful teaching online.
  • Promote and build a common understanding of online education within SUNY and to establish common language and definitions within the Open SUNY context.
  • Address skepticism, assumptions and misconceptions regarding online learning.
  • Get people interested. Promote an understanding of the benefits and affordances of the online teaching and learning environment.
  • Provide an overview of the various online pedagogies and models of online course development, faculty development that exist in Open SUNY.
  • Help those interested determine if online teaching is a good fit for them.

Development of the course began at the end of 2016, and the resource was officially launched at the end of 2017. The free and openly licensed online resource, interested in teaching online? with the companion Online Faculty Readiness inventory, was developed as a way for us address these challenges. This Interested in teaching online? resource is unique in its scope and scale and in the innovative ways that it provides options and opportunities

DESCRIPTION

Interested in teaching online? is essentially a website collection of resources including:

  • An overview of online education.
  • A set of self-assessment inventories designed to identify gaps that need to be filled before proceeding with any online faculty development/course design activities.
  • Definitions of common terms for establishing a common language and understanding about online teaching and learning.
  • Videos, interviews/testimonials from online faculty and students from multiple campuses across multiple disciplines (to showcase benefits, breadth of disciplines, address assumptions and misconceptions).
    • Student Videos: 1. Videos of students to expose faculty to the perspective of online learners (reasons for taking an online course) 2. Video tips for student success - from the students! (online student readiness) 3. Video tips for faculty from students.
    • Videos of exemplar faculty discussing the typical questions and concerns faculty have who are new to online teaching or course development.
    • Videos with exemplar online faculty discussing their best practices and suggestions for novice faculty.
    • Interviews of faculty discussion the design decisions they made in the design of their first online course and lessons learned.
  • Showcase of exemplar online courses from multiple campuses across multiple disciplines. Opportunities to view exemplar online courses.
  • Discussion forums to interact with others interested, exemplars and experts to ask questions about online teaching and learning experiences, design decisions, etc.

“Interested in Online Teaching!” A free openly licensed Open SUNY self-paced online resource designed to:

  • Help prospective online faculty check their readiness to be successful teaching online.
  • Help others understand what it takes to be successful online.
  • Review common terms related to online teaching and learning.
  • Identify the fundamental competencies needed to teach online.
  • Explain the value of applied effective online teaching practices.
  • Provide an overview of benefits and affordances of teaching online.
  • Help prospective online faculty determine if online teaching is right for them.
  • Provide an introduction to the online Open SUNY Community of Practice with opportunities to meet others interested in online teaching and learning, network, ask questions, get help, and share interests in online teaching and learning.

It is intended for anyone interested in learning more about online teaching: faculty, administrators, deans/department chairs, librarians, technologists, faculty developers, instructional designers, online student support staff, etc.

There are 2 ways to engage with this self-paced resource. You have the option of following a more structured Mapped Out Journey, or you can explore all the same content by following your own Meandering Way. Both options are self-paced - meaning you complete the activities in the course on your own, at your own pace.

In the Mapped out Journey you are provided with a formal path that guides you step by step in a logical way through the materials, activities and assessments. You begin with some Online Faculty Readiness activities, complete several self-assessments and view several videos for an overview of the basics in online teaching and to check your technical skills. A handy checklist helps you track your progress and completion of the readiness activities. You then follow the path through 3 consecutive modules that will give you a solid overview of the fundamentals in the online teaching landscape, competencies, and effective practices. Each module begins with an overview, and is followed by a series of topics, and an opportunity to check your understanding. You can view and review the materials and take the module quizzes as many times as you like.

The Meandering Way is not structured. Informally, you can browse the course content and pages just like a website – click on any page or link that interests you. You can review the materials and complete the activities at your own pace in any order you like. You can skip around, or skip topics with which you are already familiar. You can skip right to the module quizzes to confirm your understanding of the fundamentals if you like. Like with the Mapped out Journey you can view and review any of the course materials and take the module quizzes as many times as you like.

Both options cover all the same content, information, and have the same resources and opportunities to engage in optional conversations and for assessment to check your understanding along the way. No matter which option you choose the more formal step by step Mapped Out Journey, or the informal Meandering Way, you can use this handy checklist to track your progress toward completion. An optional opportunity to connect with others interested in learning more about online teaching and to engage with experts in our online teaching community of practice is provided.A badge is offered for completing the review of the materials and activities in the resource. Once you have completed your review of the resource, you can collect a badge.

A poster has been produced to provide campuses, distance learning units, faculty development units, online instructional designers with a means to promote awareness of the resource.

Supporting Information for this Effective Practice
Evidence of Effectiveness: 

Since its launch on October 30, 2017 we have had 5,876 users engage with the resource from 123 locations nationwide, and 11 foreign countries including Finland, Belgium, Chile, Lebanon, Japan, Switzerland, South Africa, Mexico, Malta, Indonesia, and Germany. We have delivered 5 free webinars providing an overview of the resource to promote awareness, and have averaged 45 unique attendees at each session from across the country. 10 badges have been formally issued thus far, and there has been 1,221 clicks/activity on the badge. Badges are only awarded if the participant provides the following evidence of their learning or effort/completion of the following:

The evidence required to collect the badge is:

  1. Becoming an Open SUNY Fellow in the interested or friend of SUNY
  2. Joining the Open SUNY online networking community.
  3. Joining the "Interested in Online-Enabled Education" conversation group.
  4. Providing a brief reflection on what you learned from engaging with the materials and activities in the resource.

 

How does this practice relate to pillars?: 

Access: Open SUNY is a system-wide initiative of the State University of New York (SUNY) designed to expand access to online learning, support online student success, and completion to meet the increasing demands of the workforce throughout New York State and the world. Open SUNY launched in January 2014 with an initial wave of 6 SUNY campuses and 8 Open SUNY+ online degree programs. The second wave of Open SUNY+ programs launched in January 2015 with 17 campuses and 56 Open SUNY+ online degree programs. Central to Open SUNY are a set of signature elements based in quality assurance for online learning and a series of system-level supports for faculty teaching online, student access to NYS high needs online degree programs and student success, campus and system-wide infrastructure, and innovative instructional models.

This effective practice supports access. By creating an onramp to teaching online and promoting a diverse, effective, and high quality online teaching and learning community in which online practitioners from across the system can thrive, scale, and improve, we increase access to high quality online education opportunities and options for online students at SUNY.

Learning Effectiveness: Open SUNY Faculty Supports aims support online learning effectiveness in online courses and degree programs by ensuring that online faculty and practitioners are well-prepared to teach online with well-designed online courses informed by research-based effective practices.

  • Overall, in the period from 2010-2016, 30,000 students filled out the surveys (23,000 complete entries).
  • Overall, on average 26,000 students expressed that they were satisfied with their online experience (average of 2.06 on a 5-point scale) and stated that they agreed that they learned a lot from the online course (average of 2.02 on a 5-point scale). Among them, 40% were strongly satisfied, 30% satisfied with the online experience, and 42% strongly believed they learned a lot, and 28% believed they learned a lot.
  • In terms of satisfaction about online classes and students' perception regarding their learning, only 7% and 6% said they were not satisfied, and did not learn a lot. 10% and 12% were neutral, and overall 70% were completely satisfied with the online classes. 13% chose not to answer the question. If you eliminate those that chose not to answer the question, 46%, 33% strongly agree and agree about satisfaction, and 47% and 34% strongly agree and agree about believing that they learned a lot.

In addition, the Open SUNY Course Quality Rubric (OSCQR) and process were developed to establish online course quality and accessibility standards, and a process to systematically and consistently scale continuous online course quality improvement efforts across the SUNY system. Adopted by OLC as their online course quality scorecard, OSCQR is designed to support online learning effectiveness in online courses and degree programs with a flexible and comprehensive online course quality review and refresh process that is now required of all online courses in Open SUNY+ online degree programs, used by 56 SUNY institutions, and now dozens of institutions around the country and the world. Both students and faculty report high levels of engagement and learning in our annual surveys (see attached student report below).

This effective practice supports learning effectiveness. By increasing the numbers of faculty interested in teaching online with the prerequisite skills, knowledge, and attitudes to be successful online, we ensure that faculty are prepared and ready to engage fully and successfully in the comprehensive online faculty development and course design professional development activities for new online faculty. Targeting and developing large numbers of motivated and well informed faculty who are prepared and ready to teach online increases the learning effectiveness of SUNY’s online courses.

Faculty Satisfaction: When online faculty are well prepared to teach online in well-designed online learning environments, and have opportunities to continuously improve their online teaching practices, as well as their online course designs, they have positive satisfying experiences teaching online. Open SUNY Online Teaching (formerly the SUNY Learning Network) is well known for success in large-scale online faculty development, and high levels of online faculty satisfaction (Fredericksen, et al, 2000). Our annual faculty surveys continue to show positive online faculty attitudes and high levels of online faculty satisfaction. Today we continue to inform and influence positive online faculty attitudes and online faculty effectiveness and satisfaction by:

In our Spring 2015 online faculty survey:

  • We had 402 respondents from across the SUNY system. (Included both those with little to no online experience and those with online experienced.)
    • Online courses can achieve student learning outcomes that are at least equivalent to those of in-person courses at ANY institution.
      • Jaschik and Lederman, 2014*, reported that 9% of faculty nationwide strongly agreed with this statement. In contrast 33% of SUNY faculty respondents strongly agreed that online learning outcomes are at least equivalent to classroom outcomes, with a majority of 57% expressing some level of agreement (agree/strongly agree).
    • Online courses can achieve student learning outcomes that are at least equivalent to those of in-person courses at MY institution.
      • Jaschik and Lederman, 2014*, reported that 13% of faculty nationwide agreed with this statement. In contrast 37% of SUNY faculty strongly agreed with this statement with 66% indicating some level of agreement.
    • Online courses can achieve student learning outcomes that are at least equivalent to those of in-person courses in my discipline or department.
      • Jaschik and Lederman, 2014*, reported that 12% of faculty nationwide strongly agreed with this statement. Overall 44% of SUNY faculty expressed strong agreement with this statement with another 22% expressing some form of agreement.
    • Online courses can achieve student learning outcomes that are at least equivalent to those of in-person courses in the classes I teach.
      • Jaschik & Lederman* reported that 14% of faculty nationwide strongly agreed with this statement. Over 52% of SUNY faculty expressed strong agreement with another 19% expressing some form of agreement.

*Jaschik, S. & Lederman, D. (2014). Faculty attitudes on technology. Inside Higher Education. Downloaded from https://www.insidehighered.com/news/survey/online-ed-skepticism-and-self-sufficiency-survey-faculty-views-technology , May 11, 2015.

This effective practice supports faculty satisfaction. By ensuring that faculty have the fundamental skills, knowledge and attitudes to be successful online before they begin the process and by introducing them to the Open SUNY community of online practitioners, we promote and ensure faculty satisfaction long term.

Student Satisfaction: Open SUNY COTE (formerly the SUNY Learning Network) is well known for high levels of online student satisfaction and reported learning (Fredericksen, et al, 2000). Today, we have continued to see high levels of student satisfaction and reported learning in our annual surveys (see attached student report below). We affect online student satisfaction by ensuring online faculty have well-designed courses and are well prepared to teach online. We do this by:

This effective practice supports student satisfaction. By ensuring that faculty are ready to teach online with the necessary fundamental skills, knowledge, and attitudes to be successful online, before they begin the process, we provide an excellent foundation for the success of the online faculty development and course design professional development activities that they engage in as new online instructors. This preparation ensures that they can maximize their engagement and success as online instructors and course developers. Well prepared online instructors in excellently designed online courses result in online student satisfaction.

Scale (institutional commitment to achieve capacity enrollment via cost effectiveness): Now fully operationalized, Open SUNY has scaled and institutionalized the Open SUNY+ signature elements and supports and designed an online course review/refresh process that is open to all SUNY campuses, online programs, courses, and faculty to ensure that all SUNY online students have access to high quality accessible online courses. To date, Open SUNY COTE has recognized 1980 Open SUNY Fellows across the 6 formal roles. With 868 Fellows in the Interested role, the most in any role.

Open SUNY Online Teaching was purposefully designed to leverage expertise and vast numbers of individuals in our online teaching and learning community of practice. By asking online practitioners to self-select roles that carry an understanding that as part of the community one has to both give and get, we are able to identify groups of people whom we can leverage to scale system-wide activities and initiatives, which greatly enhances our abilities to scale our supports and services.

This effective practice supports scale. Our original problem/challenge was how to increase the number of faculty in SUNY interested in teaching online.? While 6000 online SUNY faculty have already been successfully trained, and the scale of online learning at SUNY is extensive, to take online education to the next level in SUNY we needed a way to reach the 27,000 faculty not yet engaged in online teaching in SUNY. The Interested in Teaching Online? resource is a large-scale online faculty professional development initiative intended to reach the largest most diverse group of potential online faculty in SUNY. Providing a unique self-paced online resource allows us to consistently and systematically professionally develop and prepare cohorts of potential and interested faculty with a fundamental understanding and set of skills to be successful online on a large scale.

Equipment necessary to implement Effective Practice: 

To implement the Interested in Teaching Online? resource you need a computer, a current browser, access to the internet, and the ability to view sound and video.

Estimate the probable costs associated with this practice: 

We used WordPress to develop the resource with some plugins added for certain features, such as the checklists, inventories, quizzes, self-assents. We host WordPress ourselves, and purchased the theme and plugins necessary to design the resource.

 

This resource is openly licensed and free to use as is. So, no additional costs, registrations, or permissions are necessary.

It is free to reuse, adapt or adopt in any way with attribution.

 

References, supporting documents: 

References and supporting documents were provided as links in the narrative descriptions above.

Other Comments: 

Acknowledgements
Special acknowledgement to Phylise Banner for her contributions to the design of this resource.

Contact(s) for this Effective Practice
Effective Practice Contact: 
Alexandra M. Pickett
Email this contact: 
Alexandra.Pickett@suny.edu