But I Know How to Use an LMS Already!: An Individualized Approach to Online Faculty Development

Concurrent Session 3
Streamed Session

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Brief Abstract

As increasing numbers of faculty arrive at their new institutions with previous online teaching experience, the question becomes: how do we effectively assess and certify these faculty members to teach online?  This session focuses on our individualized online faculty development option that operates alongside our standard online faculty development course.


Nancy Swenson has a MA degree in Educational Technology from the University of Central Florida. She has a B.S from Florida International University in Business Education. Nancy has worked at the Center for Distributed Learning at UCF as an Instructional Designer since 2000. Prior to working at UCF, she taught business education classes in the public school system for 13 years. She has also worked as an adjunct with Florida Virtual School, Valencia Community College, and the University of Central Florida. Her online teaching and learning research interests include adult learning theory, accessibility of online education, and universal design for learning. Nancy has presented on similar topics at a variety of conferences including: EDUCAUSE, EDUCAUSE Southeast, SLOAN-Consortium International Conference on Online Learning, EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) Webinar, and Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) Annual Conference, and Accessing Higher Ground, Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference (CSUN)
Shelly Wyatt is an instructional designer in the Center for Distributed Learning at the University of Central Florida. She earned her PhD in instructional technology from UCF in 2013.

Extended Abstract

As teaching online has become more common over the last two decades (McGee, Windes, & Torres, 2017), many newly-hired faculty arrive at their new institutions with online teaching experience and, in some cases, online course development. Efforts need to be made to recognize the online teaching and course development of these newly arrived faculty. There is a delicate balance between honoring someone’s prior experience and also ensuring that they have the skills and knowledge to be successful online instructors (Walters, Grover, Turner, & Alexander, 2017).  

To meet the needs of our online faculty and students at the University of Central Florida (UCF), faculty who wish to teach online now have two avenues to obtain certification to develop and teach online or in mixed-mode: our online certification course IDL6543 Interactive Distance Learning or our alternative track for experienced online faculty new to UCF called Online Faculty Readiness Assessment (OFRA). The OFRA pathway to online certification recognizes a faculty member’s prior online teaching experience and training and ensures that incoming faculty have the skills and knowledge they need to be successful teaching online at UCF.

In this session, the presenters will discuss (1) how the OFRA pathway differs from IDL6543, our 10-week mix-mode online faculty development course (2) key factors to consider when developing an alternative pathway for online teaching and course design certification, and (3) the impact of OFRA on our campus as of Spring 2018. 

The Center for Distributed Learning has been certifying and assisting faculty with the design, development, and support of online and mixed-mode courses since 1996. The two approaches to certification - successfully complete IDL6543 or apply for and complete the OFRA process. Although both options lead faculty to the same outcomes - online certification - the pathways to certification differ in significant ways, including an application process (OFRA only), attending four face-to-face class meetings (IDL6543 only), and the benefits associated with working in a cohort (IDL6543). Scheduling is also a point of difference: IDL6543 is offered three times a year (Fall, Spring, Summer) and, because of high demand and a cap of 40 participants per semester, there is a waiting list. OFRA, conversely, offers a rolling application process (but does take an entire semester to complete). There are similarities, however: both certification pathways include the benefit of working closely with an instructional designer, access to the support services of a graphics and video team, and require the production of sample course content. 

Faculty members who are new to UCF often bring with them years of previous teaching experience, including at least some experience creating and teaching online courses; a subset of these new instructors may also have completed training in online teaching and course design at other instructions. At UCF, all faculty who want to design and develop their online courses must be certified to do so and earn an online teaching credential by completing our award-winning faculty development course IDL6543 Interactive Distributed Learning. The challenge, however, is clear - how do we address the unique credentialing needs of faculty who arrive with previous online training and experience related to the online classroom? In this session, we will identify the challenges of creating and implementing an alternate pathway for online teaching and course development certification. These challenges include:

  1. How to assess the knowledge and skills of faculty members who have experience in the design and development of online courses, and

  2. How to convey the results of that assessment in a way that promotes willingness to engage in additional development activities.  

We will also identify emerging best practices for addressing the needs of a varied population of experienced instructors who still need support and guidance as they adapt to the culture of their new institution. Participants in this session will be encouraged to identify areas of their faculty development programs that may benefit from an individualized approach, including alternate routes to online teaching certification and mentoring opportunities between faculty and instructional designers as well as between veteran online instructors and instructors new to their institutions or new to online teaching.  

The University of Central Florida onboards new faculty every semester; some come to us straight out of their doctoral and master’s programs while others arrive with many years of teaching experience. In the 2017-2018 academic year, UCF employed 2,481 teaching faculty; 120 of those faculty completed IDL6543 while three faculty members completed the OFRA process. Benefitting from an individualized approach to faculty development, the faculty who qualified for OFRA certification relinquished a seat in IDL6543 that ultimately allowed a fellow faculty to earn their online teaching credential. In this way, student access to UCF courses has been enhanced, and opportunities for success multiplied. For example, in Spring 2018, 45,470 (71% of total enrollment) students took a course in W, M, RV, or V mode - OFRA is part of this amazing expansion of student access. Since 2010, 38 faculty members have earned their online teaching certification through our OFRA process and, in this way, were able to begin teaching immediately in the online environment. Those 38 faculty members have taught a combined number of 651 courses with a total of 26,662 students.

We will not only share what we are doing to meet the faculty development needs for faculty teaching online at our institution, but we will also encourage participants to share what they are doing at their institution to meet the varying professional development needs of faculty at their institution. Participants in this session will also be encouraged to identify and share areas of their faculty development programs that may benefit from an individualized approach, including alternate routes to certification and mentoring opportunities between faculty and instructional designers as well as between veteran online instructors and instructors new to their institutions or new to online teaching. We will engage the participants with questions and answers throughout the presentation.

McGee, P., Windes, D., & Torres, M. (2017). Experienced online instructors: Beliefs and preferred supports regarding online teaching. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 29(2), 331-352. Retrieved from ERIC database. (EJ1147627)

Walters, S., Grover, K. S., Turner, R. C., & Alexander, J. C. (2017). Faculty perceptions related to teaching online: A starting point for designing faculty development initiatives. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education, 18(4), 4-19. doi:10.17718/tojde.340365