Development and Assesment of a One-on-One Approach to Mentoring New Online Faculty

Concurrent Session 7

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Mentoring of new faculty is common in campus-based programs; yet, it is not as common for online programs. We investigated a mentoring approach to on-boarding new online faculty using a one-on-one approach. This approach had been used successfully on campus and was successfully implemented in an online Business Communication course.

Presenters

Educational Background Doctor of Philosophy in Business, Capella University Master of Science in Biology, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Bachelor of Science in Biology, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Professional Experience Dr. Storlie is the program coordinator of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville Bachelor of Science in Business Administration program. She is also a business administration professor and has taught traditional and online courses in leadership and management, project management, quality management, business analytics, business statistics, management science, management decision analysis, global business, human resource management, and management, gender and race. Prior to being a UW-Platteville professor since 2006, Storlie spent a decade as a project manager and an ecological researcher. Storlie also is the proprieter of a consulting business that specializes in business research methods and statistical analysis. Storlie also provides training in the use of a variety of software including Microsoft Office Suite, SPSS, and online educational software, including a variety of learning management systems. She has been both a student and an educator in both distance learning and traditional programs. Storlie feels her background greatly facilitates her ability to enhance UW-Platteville's Business Administration Distance Education Degree Program.
After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Gavin worked for a government research nonprofit and since obtaining her master's degree has worked for a variety of nonprofits in various roles. Currently, she is the Special Projects Coordinator for the Distance Learning Center at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. Gavin also teaches MEDIA 3010/5010 Business Communication and APC 3300 Technical and Professional Communication.

Extended Abstract

Mentoring of new faculty is common in campus-based programs; yet, it is not as common for online programs. We investigated a mentoring approach to on-boarding new online faculty using a one-on-one approach. An approach that had been used successfully on campus was implemented in an online Business Communication course.

As the online programs in the School of Business at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville have grown, additional sections of courses have needed to be offered. Thus, additional adjunct faculty were hired to cover some of the courses, including the Business Communication course that is used by both undergraduate and graduate programs. In addition to the current online faculty training that covers learning management system and student services software (PeopleSoft) training and is provided to all new online faculty who teach for UW-Platteville, a mentoring program was set up for the course where the mentor worked with each new faculty member on an individual basis. The idea behind this mentoring approach was to foster a collaborative team teaching environment for the mentor and adjunct faculty members (mentees) so (1) students would receive a consistent, high-quality learning experience regardless of the instructor and (2) the adjunct faculty would effectively and efficiently become more skilled and engaged members of the online faculty. The mentoring program was modeled after an on campus mentoring approach that has been successful in campus-based programs.

Purdue University Calumet developed the Distance Education Mentoring Program to prepare faculty for the online instructional assignments that was intended to ensure academic integrity and align conditions for learning with technology. This systematic, collaborative approach to online faculty training was examined by Hixon, Buckenmeyer, Barczyk, Feldman, and Zamojski (2011). Alternately, the importance of informal faculty mentoring as a tool to support effective online teaching practices was emphasized by Thompson (2006). According to Thompson (2006), mentoring is often an informal process and the challenge is replicating the authenticity that comes with informal mentoring in a supported and institutional program. We believe that a mentoring approach that is systematic has strengths associated with consistency of the mentoring approach and the ability to standardize and evaluate the outcomes; yet, we also believe that the informal mentoring system can provide a much stronger relationship between the mentor and mentee. The approach that we used was a combination of formal, systematic mentoring and informal mentoring. This session will explore the development of an innovative online mentor program focused on promoting development of course facilitation skills with a focus on ongoing online course quality and consistency in the approach of the faculty to teaching the course.

The mentor who was selected for the program is the lead instructor for the course and developed all the content and assignments for the course. In addition, she has taught the online version of the course for five years and has experience with helping new adjuncts learn how to effectively teach the course. The mentor had specific duties, including:

  1. developing professional relationships with new adjuncts through proactive emails, phone calls, Skype meetings, and other forms of electronic communication (such as, social media and IM);
  2. engaging in monthly meetings to go over specific aspects of the course;
  3. providing help and sharing resources, ideas and opportunities;
  4. explaining processes and answering questions pertaining to administrative processes and procedures; and
  5. acting as a point of contact for questions/advice about teaching, pedagogy, and use of the learning management system.

Since the summer of 2015, these duties were performed by the mentor for at least one new online adjunct faculty member for four different semesters. The level of engagement with the mentor varied from adjunct to adjunct; however, each adjunct indicated that the mentoring process had been a valuable way to learn about the online course, ensure consistency in the approach of the faculty to teaching to course, and obtain helpful information and materials needed to successfully teach the course. In general, the adjuncts also felt like the mentoring process reduced the stress of teaching a class in an online format that they had never taught before.

The outcomes from the development and evaluation of this mentoring approach will be a resource for faculty teaching online, hybrid, or campus courses to consult for effective mentoring advice while supporting consistent quality of instruction in online courses between terms. This mentoring approach also assists with facilitating the continued quality of online and hybrid courses for the enhancement of the student experience and for required reevaluation and reaccreditation of programs and institutions.

The audience will learn about the approach used in the mentoring process, the results of this mentoring program in comparison to other programs, what worked best and what didn’t work so well, and how this mentoring process can be applied to different institutions and different learning environments. Some of the material in this session will be presented in slides and short videos, while other information will be provided in handouts. An online whiteboard may be used to brainstorm ideas with the audience. Furthermore, in this session, we will engage the audience in interactive question and answers, use an interactive collaborative group exercise, and compile contributions from the audience to aid in the development of further research regarding online mentoring.  

References

Hixon, E., Buckenmeyer, J., Barczyk, C., Feldman, L., & Zamojski, H. (2012). Beyond the early adopters of online instruction: Motivating the reluctant majority. The Internet and Higher Education, 15(2), 102-107.

Thompson, D. (2006). Informal faculty mentoring as a component of learning to teach online: An exploratory study. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 9(3). Retrieved from http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/fall93/thompson93.htm