As institutions respond to the call to move to or expand online course offerings, ensuring high-quality courses and online learning experiences remains a challenge as well as an imperative. It is even more difficulty to respond to that challenge within limitations of staffing and faculty time, particularly when the availability of instructional designers and technologists is limited. The desire to empower faculty as developers often leads to lengthy, time-consuming and in-depth instruction in instructional design that faculty justifiably tune out or reject, bogging down or derailing the process of faculty development of online courses.
In response to these challenges, the Institute for Distance and Distributed Learning (IDDL) at VA Tech employs a scalable process resulting in successful faculty who are comfortable teaching online and are empowered to continue to revise and develop their online courses. Faculty developers are also offered the opportunity to become mentors and reviewers for others developing online courses, thereby expanding and strengthening the community of practice for online teaching and learning across disciplines.
In an institution in which the cultural inclination is distrust of online learning and resistance to faculty investment of time and effort in changing teaching practices, this process moves faculty from reluctant participants in online learning to champions of the benefits of strong preparation and quality construction of online teaching and learning experiences. The Provost Office supports this process by providing the funds to release a faculty member from one course in a semester, thereby providing the time faculty need to focus on learning how to develop and teach an online course. The funding process is competitive and has very clearly described requirements and parameters to which the faculty developer, Department Head and Dean agree through the signing of a proposal agreement.
In this session, participants will learn how the process is structured including the initial professional development, online short course preparing faculty to develop and teach an online course, and the instructional designer facilitation of faculty development of online courses. This cohort approach to project-based online learningAllows for a highly interactive experience, the modeling of best practices, a collaborative approach to faculty issues and concerns, and the opportunity for faculty to experience online teaching and learning including large and small group work online.
The process results in the development of an online course, the consideration and adoption of teaching strategies for that online course, and both a peer and departmental review for quality assurance. Faculty have the opportunity to learn from each other as well as from instructional designers and facilitators, resulting in new and creative approaches and innovative uses of available technology in their online course.
Based on research, strategies and best practices from experience, the process begins with an initial workshop, followed by an online short course, and continues with instructional designer facilitated faculty development of online courses. The process culminates in a quality assurance peer review by a fellow faculty developer in the cohort, an instructional designer and a subject matterExpert chosen by the developer. Finally, the course is presented to the Department Head for review and approval.
The process is successful both in terms of high quality courses and faculty satisfaction. Data collected supports the claim of an effective and efficient process and faculty response to open ended survey questions indicate empowerment and confidence in ability to teach and mentor others who develop and teach online courses. The cultural shift from distrust of online learning to mastery of the design, teaching strategies and technology applications is both remarkable and replicable.
Goals for this session include that participants will: a) develop an understanding of the structured and efficient process used at VA Tech for faculty development of online courses, b) discuss the opportunities and challenges of applying and/or participating in this approach at their institution, c) have the opportunity to share in data collection and research on the effectiveness of this approach.