Online Professional Development: How do you Keep Faculty Coming Back for More?

Concurrent Session 6

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

This session will describe how to get faculty to keep coming back for professional development in online teaching. What incentives seem to work? What questions are faculty asking about professional development? How do you structure a program like this at your institution?

Sponsored By


Shawna is responsible for managing new and ongoing projects and programs, coordinating unit projects, goals, and timelines, overseeing data management, and consulting with faculty on professional development training for career-long success. She holds an M.Ed. in adult education and training from Colorado State University and has served in the Online Faculty Development unit since 2010. In addition to her work for the unit, Shawna is co-chair for the Assessment Committee of Penn State’s Commission for Women and vice president of Education for Outreach Toastmasters.

Extended Abstract

Proposal (1500 words max). The session is presented by the senior program associate and faculty adviser for the online faculty development unit in a large research 1 university. It includes the following components: 1) incentives for keeping faculty coming back for professional development - including personal contact, certificates, the learning itself, the qualifications, the learning that makes the faculty a better instructor, and teaching our online learning courses, 2) frequently asked questions from faculty regarding professional development and 3) how can this program be implemented at your university?

1. The Context. Since the advising program began in May 2016, the unit has seen increased course and certificate enrollments and completions. As the unit continues to grow and expand the services, the role of the adviser continues to expand. We now have information to look at that help to determine what behaviors have come from our mission change of “no longer a one-stop shop” to an “ongoing professional development opportunity”. How does the adviser talk to faculty about this mission change? How do we convince faculty why they need more than one course? What is the motivation for faculty to complete courses and certificates? What are some of the bigger themes that the unit has seen since the program inception? How does the adviser talk to faculty who are resistant?

2.  Description of the Faculty Advising Program. The Advising Program was designed to provide faculty with a career long professional development plan. The program begins with a one-on-one faculty and adviser session to discuss courses, certificates, and other development opportunities.

3.   Audience Involvement in the Session. With over one year of the advising program underway, we have now decided to step back and look more towards motives, incentives, resistance, and change versus the down-in-weeds logistics. Are other universities talking to faculty about career long faculty development? What do they say to faculty who are resistant? Are there incentives provided?  This program has presented many challenges and the presenter hopes to look to the audience for additional ideas and concepts to consider as the unit continues to implement and refine the program to make it even more successful for our online faculty.

Session Outcomes. The session aims to produce the following outcomes:

An increased awareness of the need for long-term professional development for improved instruction;

Open-ended dialogue for supplementing and improving the program;

Idea generation for other online faculty developers to improve their work with and support of online instructors; and,

Idea generation for designing and promoting advising programs for face-to-face as well as online teaching.

The Contribution to the Field. A ‘one and done’ approach to faculty development for online instruction is insufficient to meet the learning needs of online students. Based on our communications and rate of completions with the pilot over the last year, it appears that this program is growing because faculty see the need to be at their best online. While the program is still relatively new, we see early success and with a likelihood of expansion and growth. We also believe that this model could help other universities design their online faculty development programs and services to support all faculty across their careers. We believe that when our faculty are successfully trained for online instruction they perform better in the classroom thus leading to higher levels of student success and retention.