Virtually Present Asynchronous Online Faculty Training and Support

Author Information
Author(s): 
Dr. Mary Jane Clerkin
Institution(s) or Organization(s) Where EP Occurred: 
Berkeley College
Effective Practice Abstract/Summary
Abstract/Summary of Effective Practice: 

Berkeley College of New York and New Jersey has developed, continually upgrades, and monitors Berkeley College’s convenient, but very comprehensive, program of completely online faculty training and support. In order to accommodate a busy faculty, many of whom teach both onsite and online, and many of whom serve as department chairs, Berkeley has developed a totally online, anywhere anytime, program of totally online training and support, enhanced by video and voice.

Description of the Effective Practice
Description of the Effective Practice: 

Berkeley College of New York and New Jersey has developed, continually upgrades, and monitors Berkeley College’s convenient, but very comprehensive, program of completely online faculty training and support. In order to accommodate a busy faculty, many of whom teach both onsite and online, and many of whom serve as department chairs, Berkeley has developed a totally online, anywhere anytime, program of totally online training and support, enhanced by video and voice. This convenient, comprehensive program of online faculty training and support includes a preparatory course, Road to Success in Online Teaching; a series of online Beginning, Advanced, and Instructional Design Workshops; WebEx Conferencing on demand; always available online Pronto instant talk and text instant messaging; a one-stop anywhere anytime one-stop shopping information center, The Berkeley College Online Faculty Resource Center; discipline-specific advice and encouragement from assigned experienced online peer mentors; always available online assistance from the Coordinator of Online Faculty Support, the Coordinator of Online Instructional Design, and a 24/7 Help Desk. Since it always helps to take a course before teaching a course, Berkeley developed an online two-week preparatory course Road to Success in Online Teaching, which all prospective online professors must take and pass. It combines both online pedagogy and technology and also includes questions and comments that help prospective online professors decide whether or not online teaching is the best option for them. It also gives professors a very real understanding of what a quality online class is like. However, since in today’s fast-paced computerized world populated with busy people accustomed to quick online information, who travel the Information Superhighway often, feel very comfortable in cyberspace, and who use cell phones, pagers, palm pilots, and Blackberries for quick communication, completely online available workshops, in addition to a short preparatory course, provide a most convenient, flexible, and sensible option for continued training and support. Also considered was the fact that time and travel makes it difficult for prospective online faculty to always attend onsite workshops despite the variety of days, times, and locations offered. Therefore, in addition to onsite workshops, Berkeley developed online anywhere, anytime workshops. Online faculty workshops are enhanced by a superlative text, Teaching and Learning at a Distance: Foundations of Distance Education, which includes pedagogical and technical information; videos of experienced online faculty who transmit their knowledge of online pedagogy and technology; the advice of the online library, the Academic Support Center, and the Help Desk staff, as well as the ability to use hands-on practice. They, therefore, provide a viable option to the onsite workshops. Visual Communicator videos. Camasia videos, Wimba Voice tools, and the Pronto instant text and “talk” feature combine to personalize the workshops and raise the level of interaction. Berkeley has also developed an online, anywhere and anytime “one-stop shopping site, “The Berkeley College Online Faculty Resource Center.” The Berkeley College Online Faculty Resource Center contains pedagogical and technical directions for developing and modifying online courses; presents the practices and procedures unique to the College in an online copy of the Faculty Handbook; includes the College’s policy on Academic Integrity; includes bios and pictures of online professors; allows online professors to share effective practices and discuss common challenges; and fosters professional development by adding links to important distance learning sites, not only to keep online faculty current and up to date, but also to provide them with seminar and conference information for professional development. In addition, The Online Faculty Resource Center affords online faculty a one-stop online shopping center that is available anytime and anywhere--whenever they need it. One of the things online faculty members will find first when visiting the Center is a copy of the Faculty Handbook, which provides online faculty with Berkeley’s online practices and procedures. Professors also need pedagogical suggestions as they make the transition from classroom to distance learning. The basic syllabus remains the same to maintain the integrity and consistency of the curriculum; however, the mode of delivery is entirely different. Suggestions and examples of effective practices are explained and posted. Supplementary material is also posted. For example, an entire section listing companion websites and publishers is available on the Center. Examples of how to incorporate the material from these companion websites to enhance online courses is also posted. A most important element of the Center is the high level of interactivity that is found there. Most important is the fostering of the ongoing dialog of online colleagues sharing effective practices and discussing common challenges. The Center’s Discussion Board and Group Discussion Boards are vehicles for discussions moderated by individual professors, forums for discipline specific groups, and lectures by invited guests. For example, our Director of Library Services appeared as a guest and gave faculty an overview of the databases available on the Online Library and some tips on search techniques. Moreover, our Dean Online posts the Agenda and holds online faculty meetings in the Online Faculty Resource Center. These convenient online faculty meetings are extremely well attended and discussions are archived. A Wimba Voice Discussion Board is also available for faculty who would like to use it. This Wimba Voice Discussion Board allows online faculty to speak to each other using their own voices, which personalizes the discussions and raises the level of interaction even more in the Online Faculty Resource Center. Many faculty members enjoy using this voice discussion board. On the technical side two types of directions are posted. Technical directions for developing and/or modifying an online course are posted in simple text with accompanying screen shots. They are printable and can provide online faculty with all the information they need. Best of all, they can be saved for future reference. Many faculty like to download and save directions; other faculty, however, prefer something faster, simpler, and viewable. We live in a very visual society; therefore, it was not long before these printable directions evolved into short, simple Camtasia tutorials that provide directions in a much more interesting format for faculty who want quick easy directions and prefer video over text. Camtasia Studio for example, is so easy for online faculty to use that directions for faculty themselves to incorporate this software into their own classes was added to the center. In addition to video, sound was also added to the Center. To make the Center more interesting and interactive, Wimba Voice Software was added and directions for it use in classes provided. In addition to directions and policies, it seemed important that online faculty have access to the work of their peers to see how to blend pedagogy with technology to produce a quality online course. Thus, thanks to the generosity of their online colleagues, new online professors are given the opportunity to view a variety of Berkeley online courses that are posted on the Center. Posted by discipline, these courses give new online faculty an idea of what can be accomplished in an online format and becomes helpful models for them. What is more, online colleagues can easily be contacted for further information and suggestions. Mentoring activity can, therefore, take place online and obviates the need for onsite appointments and meetings. Moreover, even experienced online faculty can learn from each other by viewing their colleagues’ courses. In addition, each new online faculty member is provided with an experienced online faculty mentor in his or her discipline who will guide and advise the new online faculty member. A new faculty/mentor luncheon also allows for additional interaction. The Coordinator of Online Faculty Support and the Coordinator of Online Instructional Design are also always available to help and advise online faculty. They track online questions and problems using the Magic Help Desk System so that they can keep track of online questions and problems and to be sure that all questions are answered and all problems resolved. A seven-day 24/7 Help Desk is available for technical problems. The Help Desk may be contacted through e-mail, a special Problem Log, “Live Help,” and by phone. From the moment a new online faculty member is assigned to teach online, the training and support is convenient, flexible, and above all always available online to to meet the specific needs of the new faculty member and assure a successful online teaching experience.

Supporting Information for this Effective Practice
Evidence of Effectiveness: 

Online training and support courses and workshops have proven to be even more effective and popular with online faculty since they may be taken anytime and anywhere and at the convenience of a busy faculty.

How does this practice relate to pillars?: 

Totally asynchronous online faculty and training and support provides a very flexible and convenient option to onsite workshops.

Equipment necessary to implement Effective Practice: 

Adobe 3 Visual Communicator; Camtasia Studio 6; Wimba Voice features.

Estimate the probable costs associated with this practice: 

The cost would not exceed the regular onsite trainings.