Make no Assumptions: New Online Faculty Orientation

Concurrent Session 5

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

All full time and adjunct faculty are required to successfully complete our online teaching orientation prior to teaching online in graduate programs. This three-week facilitated online course includes assignments directly tied to preparation of the courses they will be teaching.  CBE  (Competency Based Education) exemptions are awarded depending on existing skills.


Combining an Instructional Design background with many years of online teaching and extensive experience in managing remote employees and faculty, I managed the first large-scale online program at Samuel Merritt University in Oakland, California. Our online Family Nurse Practitioner program launched in 2015. We now have over 250 students in the program with an 85% retention rate, and a reliable adjunct pool who teach most of the classes online, under the guidance of lead faculty.

Extended Abstract

Expected Outcome: Attendees will leave with ideas from presenter and peers about why and how to develop a robust and relevant orientation for faculty who will be teaching online.

1. Background:

When Samuel Merritt University decided to add an online modality to its already robust MSN programs, most faculty were very experienced in teaching, but not in teaching online. The online model also called for extensive adjunct section teaching. We realized all faculty, full-time and adjunct, needed a shared mental model about how we would teach the courses in the online modality, and that we needed to create a path to best practices in teaching our online courses.

We partnered with an OPM (Online Program  Management Provider) that fortunately conveyed the importance of templatizing the courses for user consistency, and the need for both a student success orientation (see submission by Adriane Kiefling and Liz Winer of Samuel Merritt University)  and a faculty orientation. We’ve been revising each of these orientations every term since the first iteration in 2015.

Lessons Learned:

Here’s what we’ve learned:

  • Don’t make assumptions about what faculty do or don’t know about teaching online
  • As with our students, make no assumptions about what technological skills our faculty possess upon entry into teaching online with us.
  • Treat faculty learners as colleagues
  • Engagement in orientation can be an indicator of engagement in online teaching
  • Model the way
  • Eliminate busy work
  • Make it practical
  • Pay them if you can
  • Ensure what you teach in faculty orientation aligns with what students are being taught in their online success orientation.
  • Employ CQI (Continuous Quality Improvement    

Materials: Session will use interactive polling (Socrative), Powerpoint slide deck, and view of actual course template.