To Serve Them All Our Days: How We Revised Our Mission and Changed Our Work to Support Online Faculty Across Their Careers

Concurrent Session 9

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Learn how our online faculty development center adapted to a mission shift from “one and done” training courses to supporting online instructors throughout their careers. We share our experience and lessons learned in revising our philosophy, curriculum, assessments, credentials, internal marketing, and faculty advising program.

Presenters

Larry holds a PhD in Educational Theory and Policy from Penn State University and an MEd in Leadership, Policy, and Organizations from Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education. He directs the Online Faculty Development unit at Penn State World Campus and teaches on the Educational Leadership faculty both online and resident instruction. His research interests include online teaching and learning, online faculty development, urban school districts, and educational leadership. Prior to his work in higher education, Larry served in K-12 schools as a teacher, administrator, and principal. Larry is 2012 graduate of the Institute of Emerging Leadership for Online Learning (IELOL), the recipient of the Online Learning Consortium’s Best-in-Track for Faculty Development award (2014, 2015), and a former Pauline Turner Fellowship recipient in the College of Education. Larry is published in education journals including American Educational Research Journal and Peabody Journal of Education.

Extended Abstract

The context of our mission shift. Our online faculty development center intentionally revised our mission from offering "one and done" training courses to supporting faculty with professional development programs and services across their careers. For the better part of a decade, we have been offering voluntary online learning courses to university faculty who sought to improve their skills and understanding of effective online instruction. Several colleges and academic programs required new faculty to take at least one of our online training courses to improve online teaching. The thinking was, “Complete the training course and you’ll be ready to teach online.” But as we know, teaching requires an ongoing set of reflections and formal and informal learning experiences to keep maturing one’s skills, competencies, and understandings in order to improve one’s practice. Additionally, our university was engaged in an effort to rapidly grow our online enrollments. This meant more and new faculty would likely be teaching online. For us to maintain instructional quality, our online faculty development center needed to take a long view and create programming and personalized support across instructors’ careers.

This mission shift impacted nearly every one of our organizational functions, from incorporating increased examples of competency based training to course and certificate redesign to establishing a faculty masters program as well as a one-on-one faculty advising programs. This also included new recordkeeping, tracking, and reporting challenges as well as hiring university instructors to teach our cohort-based, online training programs. Central to this curricular redesign was coming to understand what effective online teaching looks like across a career--from basic competency to mastery and then how to design programs and services to support faculty growth along that continuum.

Description of the program. The curricular re-design included an addition of three new online teaching certificates (to accompany the Essentials Certificate) consisting of knowledge-based and competency-based learning. The re-design also inspired two new programs: a Faculty Masters program that uses coursework, mentoring, collaborations with academic department heads to work toward mastery, and a one-on-one Faculty Advising program that guides faculty through iterations of professional development plans, coursework, certificates, and achievements. Visuals depicting the certificate and masters programs will be shared with the attendees.

Challenges and successes. The central challenge continues to be understanding, articulating, and measuring a research-based developmental continuum between essential online teaching skills and understandings and master online teaching. What are the milestones along the way? How do instructors move through essential competencies to master teaching and how can we support this movement? Other challenges include increased capacities needed for course design and implementation, advising, rerodkeeping and reporting, and adding capacity for research studies focusing on Novice Online Teachers (graduate students). Data on our initial successes will be shared.

Attendee learning outcomes. Attendees will learn what a multi-year, career-long continuum of online teaching effectiveness looks like and how faculty developers can create courses, programs, and services to support faculty who seek mastery over years of teaching experience. Attendees will also learn strategies for increasing unit capacities to shift missions from "one and done"courses to ongoing professional development. Finally, attendees will see one model they can modify to fit their own institutions.

Attendee interaction opportunities/activities. Attendees will participate in whole and small group discussions as well as crowdsource ideas for effective, long-term ongoing professional development for online instructors.

Contribution to the field. Online faculty development, as specialized practice in faculty professional development at the university level, has taken on new importance. According to the recent 2017 Educause Learning Initiative survey “Tracking Key Issues and Teaching and Learning,” faculty development ranks first as a key issue in most institutions. Moving past teaching best practices, online faculty development centers are exploring the complexities of online learning pedagogies, navigating the politics of requiring faculty training, and measuring the impact of their programs and services. Our career-long mission and approach is among the first articulated online professional development efforts in a large Research 1 university. We hope our model will not only mature and improve online instruction in our university but also inspire other online faculty development units to improve online teaching through a career-long approach to training courses, services, and programs.