Doing More with Less: Course and Faculty Development Visioning & Implementation

Concurrent Session 6

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Universities need to increase online education and teaching while reducing overhead.  To accomplish these goals, with 38,000 students, 1,900 faculty, and a unit of fewer than 25 serving all course and faculty develoment needs, UNT developed a new vision and organizational structure.  Why, how, myths, successes, challenges, and opportunities will be shared.


Lynette is the Director of Learning Enhancement at UNT, where she oversees Course Development and Faculty Development. She earned her Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration in 2013, and has an M.S. in School Psychology and B.A. in Psychology. She previously worked in Enrollment Management, and combines both Enrollment Management and organizational/leadership principles and a core foundation of Academic Affairs work to direct Course and Faculty Development at UNT to provide high-quality teaching and learning experiences across UNT's 13 colleges and schools. Sam Gist is the Associate Director for Learning Enhancement at UNT, and oversees Online Course Development and collaborative initiatives in Course and Faculty Development. Sam has an M.S. and a B.A. in Communication Studies, and has worked in Course Design and Instructional Consulting in both corporate academic and university environments. He draws on his knowledge of the field overall as well as a wealth of experience at UNT to lead CLEAR Instructional Design Consultants toward high-quality course design and faculty services.
Sam Gist is a Senior Instructional Design Consultant at the University of North Texas, and has worked in the ID field since 2012, including experience managing a team of six Instructional Designers. He holds a Master’s degree in Communication Studies, and enjoys exploring the intersections of design thinking, technology, experience, and communication, particularly as applied to effective education.

Extended Abstract

Higher education institutions face continuing calls for administrative and cost efficiency amid pressure to increase online course and degree offerings as well as to improve teaching and learning outcomes. The University of North Texas’ Center for Learning Enhancement, Assessment, and Redesign (CLEAR) has approached the challenge to maximize limited resources on a large, public university campus by reorganizing multiple small units, in terms of both structural and operational organization.  These changes have resulted in a reduction of duplicated work, an increase in the ability to serve a highly diverse faculty with varying needs, a broader reach across campus, and a dispersion of service across a much broader range.


UNT enrolls 38,000 students and employs 1,900 instructors (not including a large number of TFs and TAs). CLEAR previously consisted of multiple units, employing a total of approximately 25 staff – only 13 of which are fully dedicated to the core units in the reorganization: Faculty Development, Online Course Development, Face-to-Face and Hybrid Course Development, and Assessment.  UNT has multiple directives from the President and Provost that impact all of these units, including increasing overall enrollment amid space and geographical constraints, improving faculty development – particularly pedagogical development, increasing student retention, and assessing student learning. To address the space constraints while still increasing enrollment and programming, online education is the natural answer, and is the modality that senior administration is largely focused on, though the division between online, hybrid, and face-to-face courses is increasingly blurry.  Improving pedagogy and other faculty development initiatives and showing outcomes via learning assessment and program/course evaluation is key to shaping future direction.  


Meeting these charges on such a large campus with a very small CLEAR staff presented a unique challenge. CLEAR reorganized the units noted above into a single unit, shifted focus from a high volume of disparate individual projects and initiatives to a cohesive vision, and reworked both strategic and operational plans for the new unit.  In addition to the results that will be discussed below, a key result for the unit was that the Provost approved a new proposal for a revised funding model and dedicated fiscal resources to begin increasing the size of the unit to nearly double over the next three years in order to complete the work that began with a new vision for the unit and for accomplishing university goals.  


The Challenge:

  • UNT is out of physical space and under considerable pressure to continue growing through both enrollment and retention.
  • The President and Provost have both defined course development, faculty development, and outcomes as key strategies to address enrollment and retention.
  • CLEAR, which houses all of these units, is a very small operation serving a large and growing public university campus with highly diverse faculty and student populations. Additionally, there were significant culture challenges (including being located in two different buildings) within CLEAR that produced very “siloed” units, a lot of overlap in work, and no cohesive plan to address unit or university needs.


The Solution:

  • Following a six-month evaluation and visioning period, CLEAR reorganized all units, resulting in a tighter management structure while still allowing for some unit and individual choice, created a new operational structure, and most notably, combined the Online Course Development, Faculty Development, Face-to-Face and Hybrid Course Development, and Assessment units into a single group under a new leadership structure.
    • Both previous and current organizational charts will be shared, along with explanations of what worked previously, did not work, and why we changed what we did
  • CLEAR created a new, cohesive plan for addressing the significant and varied campus needs with existing staff and resources: 
    • Shifted focus of Faculty Development to move from a variety of individual-interest projects to focus on broad campus need, just-in-time resources, and highly accessible resources in a variety of formats (articles, podcasts, interviews, etc.) through the development of a virtual faculty development site, UNT Teaching Commons
    • Explicitly shifted the view of “online” and “face-to-face and hybrid” from two very different things to a single vision.  Technology and LMS use are embedded in nearly every course, regardless of modality, and it’s an outdated concept to keep those unit services and activities in different units.
    • Reworked the course development process:
      • Moved from multiple paper documents that were sent to five offices to a fully electronic process with two documents, sent in a single packet for electronic signature, to just three offices and are routed automatically
      • Changed timelines overall to allow faculty maximum time for development and approval
      • Created a process for intake in which each faculty member meets with the Associate Director over Online Course Development to establish goals, timelines, and consulting/development needs and receives clear information about the process and relevant information on quality review, copyright, etc.
      • Created three tracks for course development (as opposed to the one prior option), which now allow for faculty to have “full-service” (Instructional Design Consultant does all course building, including uploading materials), “facilitated” (Instructional Design Consultant assists with course planning and development, but the faculty member shares the responsibility for uploading materials, etc.), and “independent” (the faculty member develops the course on their own and the Instructional Design Consultant provides a quality review for approval)
    • Standardized the consultation process so that service is the same across the department and assigned Instructional Design Consultants
    • Redesigned operational procedure so that all combined units are required to work together on all unit objectives.  This included changing meeting structures to include more culture-building opportunities while reducing the overall time spent in meetings.
  • These changes have allowed a very small unit to expand reach across campus while addressing the directives of senior administration, and have reduced inefficiency and increased visible outcomes while also making a strong and successful case for additional resources, which have been granted as a result of the reorganization and new strategic and operational plans.


During this presentation, we will discuss these core issues and solutions as well as myths about all relevant units and myths about accomplishing difficult objectives with limited resources.  We will also share organizational charts, address challenges and successes throughout the process from visioning to implementation to post-implementation, and share successes and new opportunities.  


Scarce resources and high demands are something that most public universities share, and this is increasingly prominent in online and faculty development units.  UNT and CLEAR have approached these challenges as an opportunity to increase service, better serve students and faculty, and make a successful case for providing significant resources to accomplish these goals.