Faculty who teach online for Elon University, regardless of previous online teaching experience, must successfully complete an 8 month blended training program and have taught the course previously in a face-to-face environment. The focus is on acquiring skills critical to online teaching through application activities, pedagogical exploration, and technology mastery. The OCDWGs and Peer Mentoring program has 3 parts: OCDWGs, a self-paced asynchronous Moodle course, and peer mentoring. Both the pedagogy of teaching online and Moodle training are combined into this comprehensive three-part program.
OCDWGs are co-facilitated by an experienced instructional designer with online teaching experience, and a veteran online faculty member invited by the instructional designer. Together they model effective methods of online facilitation for a cohort of approximately 10 faculty. OCDWG meetings occur from February to May, a timeframe suggested by faculty as most convenient. The OCDWG process discusses course development, design and assessment and compares traditional face-to-face teaching with online pedagogy. The most important aspect of the OCDWGs are the peer-to-peer conversations that occur during multiple lunch meetings. These collaborative cross-discipline conversations provide faculty with continuing opportunities to learn from each other. The partnerships transcend all aspects of pedagogy.
The OCDWGs discussions have a practical and application emphasis. Topics covered include: syllabus construction, writing effective quiz questions, best practices in design, implementation, interaction, assessment, creating appropriate assignments and activities, integrating web and library resources, classroom and time management, integrating guest speakers, effective faculty and student communication, organization of small group activities, integrating multimedia, and rubrics. Application and experimentation assignments in Moodle complement the face-to-face discussions so faculty can practice and experiment in their unique online environment.
The OCDWGs are supported by 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, i.e., Screen-cast-o-matic, Wordpress, Audacity, PowerPoint.
All online courses are created through a course development process that ensures each aligns with the “Elon Way” of delivery. There is no standardization on campus for courses, but each online course meets benchmark standards in technology, interaction, and assessment. To celebrate teaching their first online course, the last OCDWG showcases the completed online faculty courses. The online community is invited to lunch and the showcase, as are deans and departmental chairs.
Moodle complements the learning experience outside the OCDWGs bi-weekly meetings. In this self-paced asynchronous site available October through June, in-depth discussions are facilitated on topics covered in the face-to-face OCDWGs. This virtual space discusses pedagogy as well as “how to” modules for novice, intermediate, and advanced Moodle users. The course illustrates, demonstrates, and discusses advanced teaching strategies, challenges, best practices, current research, and trends. Included are videos sharing how to use specific techniques in online teaching made by our Elon faculty.
The cohort contributes to lively 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 contemporary literature. Teaching Online: A Practical Guide, by Ko and Rossen, is one springboard for discussion in the Moodle forums.
Exercises related to software mastery and classroom design are completed monthly in the faculty Moodle practice classrooms. By the conclusion of the Moodle course faculty have the foundation for their online course.
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. Annually the instructional designer identifies and invites two faculty members to serve as mentors to the online community. Invitations are extended to faculty based upon the online student feedback survey results, creativeness of technology usage, and success of the course as measured by student and faculty feedback data. Mentor responsibilities include:
• Contribute to the Moodle discussions
• Share resources and open online course for others to explore
• Facilitate one Online Course Design Working Group
• Serve as a point of contact for questions, advice about teaching, pedagogy, and Moodle
• Integrate a new technology tool into your course
• Review online courses and provide feedback
Peer mentoring is the conduit between the OCDWGs and Moodle course. Faculty are paired with an online mentor with whom they can confer and conduct course review. This third component to the OCDWGs and Peer Mentoring 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.