If You Build It, They Will Come - The Genesis of Institutional Online Professional Development

Concurrent Session 1

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Creating an internal, online professional development program can encourage, support, develop and retain high-quality faculty and staff. In this workshop, we will explore how to develop, launch, sustain and celebrate your online professional development programs.


Natalie Pelham, Director of Training and Development at American College of Education, develops quality, online professional development, ensures authentic training experiences and encourages cross-functional collaboration for all faculty and staff. Natalie has been awarded the Governor's Shine Award for outstanding contributions to STEM education from Governor Rick Scott, recognized as one of the Top 15 educators in Duval County, highlighted by Wells Fargo in an Excellence in Teaching series, and was a state finalist for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). Natalie received her Master's in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in Digital Learning and Teaching from American College of Education and is currently pursuing her Ed.D. in Leadership .

Extended Abstract

Professional development is proven to help retain employees and increase employee satisfaction if done correctly (Beaudry, 2009). How do you create an internal, virtual professional development program that encourages and supports faculty training? In this workshop, we will explore the process for developing and launching online professional development, the details needed to succeed and opportunities to encourage participation. We will collaboratively explore professional development at our institutions and think through ways training and development can impact our faculty and staff today. 

In 2016, our Professional Development department was formed to help highlight our faculty’s strengths, pour into our areas of need and create a culture of collaboration and cross-department connections. Coming onboard a fully online college to form this new department as the Director of Faculty Training and Development was exciting, invigorating and daunting. Where do you start? How do you know what to teach the teachers? How do you roll out the trainings effectively and efficiently? You start by creating a data-driven plan fueled by research based best practices and add in some snazzy digital stickers. Sounds easy right? Then why are industry standards saying we’re not reaching our faculty and staff in the ways they need? (Sorenson and Garman, 2013; Olenski, 2015).

Our first action step was identifying the strengths, needs and opportunities for our 150 virtual faculty members. Surveying key stakeholders including leadership, department chairs, faculty and students, provided fantastic insights and tangible first steps. Developing a detailed overview for the year that aligned with the college’s core values and vision created a sustainable and scalable department mission.  Researching best practices to support and develop internal professional development trainings added to the integrity and depth of our training offerings. With a limited budget, collaboration with our production team allowed for content to be brought to life in the form of engaging avatars and visually appealing videos. Professional development doesn’t have to break the budget, it just needs to disrupt the status quo.

We created a new hire online training course to help prepare new faculty with college best practices and procedures and provided hands-on experience in a mock course. This application practicum empowered our new faculty to feel comfortable and confident when they entered their first online course as an instructor. Our CIA: Canvas in Action training helps current faculty dig into the ins and outs of our Learning Management System (LMS), Canvas. Our Efficient and Effective Feedback training explored the many ways to provide better feedback in courses; from audio feedback to quick video commentary, our faculty learned best practices in today's online education. New platforms, designs, training approaches and researched content was being presented and faculty were eager and excited to participate.

Additionally, we developed podcast trainings, in-house, for faculty on the go. Looking for a great soundtrack for that beach vacation? Why not listen to our Rubric Training! In 2017, ACE faculty completed over 750 hours of internal professional development covering 10 internally developed trainings. Furthermore, over 270 faculty and staff were highlighted in a cross-college effort to increase collaboration through our monthly newsletter publication highlighting positive student comments and professional development tips from faculty and staff to peers.

Midway through the year, we realized badges and digital certificates would be a great addition to our initiatives. Badges can be automatically awarded for successful completions of trainings and easily added to participants LinkedIn and social media profiles. Our faculty love the badges and to display their accomplishments. In 2018, we have the honor of helping reach our staff as well. Developing trainings for both faculty and staff, some similar and some distinctly different, is an exciting adventure. We have loved jumping in to various topics from our enrollment procedures to trainings covering all our programs and platforms. We have already surpassed our 2017 professional development hours by the 2nd quarter and faculty and staff are emailing requesting even more opportunities. 

Our autonomous, self-paced courses help build collaboration through discussion activites, expand content knowledge with engaging research based best practices that our faculty and staff love and the great news, you can do it at your institutions too! Professional development does not have to be an in-person seminar housed within the workday hours. Professional development can help meet the specific needs of your faculty and staff and encourage continuous learning and improvement from a computer monitor. Listening to the needs of your faculty and staff will help drive your professional development program. If you build a quality, engaging professional development program, not only will faculty and staff come, they will rush in for the opportunity to learn and collaborate with others. 


Beaudry, K. (2009). Improving Teacher Satisfaction with Professional Development. Retrieved from https://scholarsbank.uoregon.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/1794/10128/ProfD...

Olenski, S. (2015). 8 Key Tactics for Developing Employees. Retrieved from www.forbes.com

Sorenson, S. & Garman, K. (2013).  How to Tackle U.S. Employees' Stagnating Engagement. Retrieved from http://news.gallup.com/