Meeting Faculty Where They Are: Supporting Online Faculty

Concurrent Session 2

Brief Abstract

Online course offerings are on the rise at most higher education institutions. One of the challenges universities face is providing high quality support services to those faculty who teach online. This session will introduce several online faculty development initiatives and discuss effective strategies for implementation at your institution.

Extended Abstract

Many higher education institutions strive to offer high quality education online. A challenge that  universities face within the online learning arena is providing quality faculty development and support services. One reason instructors might choose to teach online courses is to have the freedom to work off-campus and flexibility with time commitments. While this is a viable and valuable option, it creates a challenge to faculty developers and other units providing faculty support services.

Institutions with satellite or global campuses offering centralized support services or those with limited resources, have to be creative about online faculty development initiatives and methods of delivery. Since educational development should be “flexible and responsive” to the needs of faculty and culture of the campuses (Ellis & Ortquist-Ahrens, 2010), modifications need to be made to the design and delivery of support for online faculty. For example, exposing online instructors to the learning management system and technologies supported by our institutions is one way to use an authentic environment as a learning platform, immerse faculty in the online learning experience from a student perspective, and to have faculty practice what we preach as faculty developers. This way, online instructors will be better prepared to design and deliver engaging virtual learning experiences for their students.

In this session, the facilitators will share their “lessons learned” about faculty development initiatives for online instructors, facilitate a discussion about relevant considerations and challenges, and have participants outline essential components for effective support services for faculty teaching online. Additionally, the panelists will offer diverse range of perspectives from a large public university, a fully online school as part of a large, urban university system, and a private non-profit school. The wide range of institutional contexts from the panelists will offer a variety of faculty development initiatives from online course design workshops and trainings to virtual consultations on demand.  

The presentation will start with an explanation about educational development for online instructors and its connection to the growth in online education (5 minutes). Next, each facilitator will share their particular educational context and the ways through which they reach off-campus faculty (15 minutes). Then, panelists will facilitate an audience discussion (20 minutes) with guiding questions such as these:

  • How do you currently deliver virtual course design workshops?
  • How do you create instructor presence and build community in an online faculty development opportunity?
  • ​How do you communicate with faculty beyond the educational development experience?
  • What considerations do you have for technology support?

Using these questions as a guide, the group will brainstorm ideas and participants will each develop a plan about how to incorporate some of these on their own campus. As recommended by alternative faculty development models, panelists will provide time for exploration, discussion, and reflection; allowing participants to synthesize theory and consider applying it within their own context (Little and Plank, 2013).


•       Ellis, D. and Ortquistt-Ahrens, L. (2010). Practical suggestions for programs and activities. In Gillespie, K. & Robertson, D. (Eds.), Guide to Faculty Development (117-132). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

•       Little, D and Plank, K. (2013). Multi-Day Institutes. Presentation at 8th INFD. Atlanta, Georgia.