Inclusion and Engagement: Designing an All-College Community of Practice for Online Faculty

Concurrent Session 3
Streamed Session

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Brief Abstract

Learn how a college in a land grant, Research 1 university provided faculty development to its 60 online instructors through a three-day, on-campus conference. Strategies, innovations, lessons learned, benefits, and take-aways are discussed.


Dennis G. Shea is the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs and Outreach in the College of Health and Human Development, responsible for strategic planning, development, advising, recruitment, diversity, academic affairs, and other elements of the College’s 8 undergraduate schools and departments and all of its online World Campus programs. Dr. Shea is also a Professor of Health Policy and Administration in the College of Health and Human Development at Penn State where he has worked since 1990. He served as Department Head of Health Policy and Administration from 2004 to 2013, and was professor in charge of undergraduate programs prior to that. Dr. Shea holds a master's degree and doctorate in economics from Rutgers University and a master's degree in economics from Jesus College, Cambridge University. His research focuses on the economics of health and aging, particularly in the impact of economic factors on insurance coverage and the use of long-term care, mental health, and physician services by the elderly. He has published over 100 peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, research reports and related manuscripts. His work includes estimates of the determinants of retiree health insurance coverage among the elderly, factors influencing mental health service use and outcomes in long-term care settings, patterns of physician referrals in the Medicare program, and policy simulations of proposed prescription drug benefit plans for Medicare.
Larry holds a PhD in Educational Theory and Policy from Penn State University and an MEd in Leadership, Policy, and Organizations from Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education. He directs the Online Faculty Development unit at Penn State World Campus and teaches on the Educational Leadership faculty both online and resident instruction. His research interests include online teaching and learning, online faculty development, urban school districts, and educational leadership. Prior to his work in higher education, Larry served in K-12 schools as a teacher, administrator, and principal. Larry is 2012 graduate of the Institute of Emerging Leadership for Online Learning (IELOL), the recipient of the Online Learning Consortium’s Best-in-Track for Faculty Development award (2014, 2015), and a former Pauline Turner Fellowship recipient in the College of Education. Larry is published in education journals including American Educational Research Journal and Peabody Journal of Education.
Susan LeWay is the Director of Outreach for the College of Health and Human Development at the Pennsylvania State University. In this role, Susan oversees the planning, development, and management of the College's online programs and courses offered through Penn State's World Campus. Additionally, Susan oversees a wide range of faculty-led outreach initiatives and experiential learning opportunities for the College of Health and Human Development.
Dr. Pazzaglia earned her BS in Nutrition Science at Penn State University, a Master’s Degree in Nutrition at Syracuse University, a PhD in Nutrition with an emphasis in Nutrition Education from Penn State University and a PhD in Education, Policy and Evaluation from Arizona State University. Dr. Pazzaglia has taught at both the undergraduate and graduate level in and has particular interest in pedagogy and effective teaching and learning in the online, hybrid and face-to-face formats as well as the flipped classroom approach to teaching. Dr. Pazzaglia is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with experience in clinical nutrition in both acute and long-term care settings, community nutrition and nutrition education for individuals, the public and health professionals. Her other teaching and research interests include cultural competence and diversity skills in nutrition and dietetics and health care, nutrition education for nutrition and other health professions and nutrition education and health in the Latino population.

Extended Abstract

This session details how a college in a large public, Research 1 university in the Mid Atlantic designed and implemented an on-campus conference for 60 local and at-a-distance online faculty teaching in a variety of academic degree programs. Based on the idea that a college's online faculty benefits from a face-to-face professional development and community building, the session describes how faculty and administrators created a community of practice around professional development workshops, an all-college town hall discussion of the future of online education, and small group breakout sessions. Details are shared of the various roles of administrators (deans, associate deans, directors), support staff, instructional designers, and faculty. Of special note is the community building strategy of placing all online faculty (from all programs in the college) in a Canvas section for communication, orientation and onboarding, a resource repository, prompted and spontaneous discussions, information sharing, and asynchronous faculty meetings.

The presentation team consists of the associate dean for undergraduate students and outreach, the director of outreach for online programs, one director/instructor for an undergraduate online program, one director/lead faculty for online graduate program, the college's lead instructional designer, and the director of online faculty development unit for the university's online campus. The team discusses the rationale for the conference, benefits to various stakeholders, specific details and logistics, content of presentations, workshops, and activities over two and a half days, strategies for building an ongoing virtual community of practice for online instructors, lessons learned and mistakes to be avoided, and a summary of the post-conference evaluation.

The presenters will crowdsource ideas for implementing a fully virtual online faculty conference and community of instructional practice. Session participants will contribute observations and ideas through whole group discussion, small group idea generation for future conference programs content, opportunities and challenges of designing their own online faculty conferences (face-to-face, online, or hybrid), 

Learning outcomes: Participants in this session will be able to:

  • Recognize, describe, and explain the ways in which online faculty at the program and college levels can benefit from focused professional development experiences, face-to-face and virtually; 
  • Describe, critically analyze, and assess issues related to logistics, finances, capacity demands, resource allocations, and other "costs" for hosting conferences like the one presented.
  • Integrate and apply the lessons learned and presented by the conference organizers to their own online faculty development endeavors.
  • Synthesize information and formulate novel ideas based on the faculty take-aways and survey results for the conference evaluation

Those who might benefit from the presentation include online faculty, faculty developers, online program lead faculty, online program coordinators, department and college staff, department heads, associate deans and deans of colleges.