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:
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.
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.
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.