Reflect—Collaborate—Plan: Supporting a Culture of Innovation through Online Communities of Practice

Concurrent Session 4

Brief Abstract

As institutional leaders launch student success initiatives and technology-enhanced solutions, they must not overlook one of their most impactful change agents: the faculty. How can institutional leaders support sustainable, measurable faculty development as a critical part of implementation? This session will explore an innovative approach to online faculty development, by empowering national communities of practice.


Emma Zone has been leading and teaching for nearly 20 years. Emma specialties include faculty experience and classroom engagement strategy, faculty operations and development, instructional quality processes, co-curricular support, and faculty-student engagement. Emma has experience driving cross-functional collaboration to impact student success. In addition, Emma has experience leading and supporting large scale courseware and digital tool implementations, and she shares in the national conversation on leveraging innovative technology in large, complex educational organizations. Emma has teaching experience spanning the secondary, community college, and university levels. She has been long-committed to discovering, applying, and supporting innovation in the classroom to impact meaningful change for students and faculty. Emma earned her BA in English Language and Literature from the University of Michigan, MEd in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, MA in English from DePaul University. She also holds an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership. Emma's professional interests include student success initiatives, faculty engagement and development, scaling and supporting educational technology solutions, and leadership development. When she is not tweeting, writing, or presenting about teaching and learning, edtech, and higher ed, you will find Emma shuttling her kids to their various activities or taking her rescued lab mix on long walks.
Dr. Bouchey is Associate Professor and Dean of Online Education at National Louis University where she is responsible for standards of quality and service for online programming across the institution. Dr. Bouchey has had the opportunity to lead all aspects of an online campus and programming in her career and spends time each week in deep dialog with an engaged personal learning network discussing the evolving nature of online education. Dr. Bouchey holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University at Albany, an M.B.A. in Entrepreneurship from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and a Doctorate in Education from Northeastern University. She is a co-founder of the CORAL Research collaborative focused on online leadership and scholarship; her personal research interests include the nature and future of organizational structures of online units in institutions of higher education, as well as inventive and high-impact pedagogical practice in online teaching. Dr. Bouchey writes and is widely quoted in the academic and popular press; her articles and curriculum vitae can be accessed here:

Additional Authors

An Instructor and Instructional Designer in the School of Health Studies at the University of Memphis, Dr. Niki Bray currently teaches online and on-ground courses in Physical Education Teacher Education (PETE) department as well as courses that serve the School of Health Studies (i.e. Intro to Kinesiology and Intro to Exercise Physiology). In addition to teaching, Niki serves as the School of Health Studies' Instructional Designer where she provides pedagogical, technology-enhanced, and technical support to faculty within her school. Awards: Bruce Chaloux Scholarship for Early Career Excellence, Online Learning Consortium (OLC), 2018 School of Health Studies Most Valuable Professor (MVP) Award, University of Memphis, 2018 Service: October 2015 - October 2016 - WCET Adaptive Learning Fellow August 2015 - Present - Teaching and Learning Advisory Committee, University of Memphis 2018 FY - Chair, Teaching and Learning Advisory Committee, University of Memphis August 2017 - Present - School of Health Studies Department Aide, University of Memphis August 2017 - Present - Co-Chair IMS Global Adaptive Learning Communities August 2018 - Present - CWiC Executive Committee December 2016 - Present - Gate's Foundation Collaborative Opportunity Grant, Adaptive Learning Expert, University of Memphis 2016-2018 - Digital Learning Innovation (DLI) Award Reviewer, Online Learning Consortium (OLC) Education: Instruction and Curriculum Leadership, Instructional Design & Technology, Doctorate, 2017 Leadership and Policy Studies, School Administration & Supervision, Masters of Science, 2008 Education, Physical Education, Bachelors in Science, 1997 Research Interests: Adaptive Learning, Technology-Enhanced Learning, Active Learning, Digital Learning, Learning Sciences, Student Success, Faculty Development

Extended Abstract

Session Outcomes:

Participants will:

-        Recognize the role of faculty development and intentional, evidence-based teaching as a part of the student success ecosphere and an essential driver of removing barriers to innovation

-        Outline priorities and challenges for supporting both full-time and part-time faculty in sustained faculty development initiatives that result in changes of teaching behaviors

-        Discuss how an online model of professional development promotes faculty access, engagement, and sustained teaching practice improvement intended to create change

-        Explore reflective practice as a robust process rooted in scientific inquiry that is enhanced using a national, online learning community


With myriad initiatives aimed at addressing challenges around student success, institutions must not overlook one of their most impactful change agents: the faculty. As institutional leaders look to implement technology-enhanced solutions to impact both student success and broader institutional initiatives, they must simultaneously consider how they will support faculty development as a critical part of the implementation. And, while meeting benchmarks on completion is an important metric, student success is more than completion. Student success is about helping students connect with, understand, and apply content and information. What happens in the learning environment is critical to student success – particularly for underrepresented student populations. Therefore, supporting an institutional culture of intentional teaching and classroom innovation is vital, even if historically difficult to measure and achieve at scale.

How can we further the conversation and adopt online solutions to allow for a sustainable approach that values faculty experience while supporting change? How do we solve for the challenge of providing data to help not only faculty make informed decision about the efficacy of their teaching practices, but also administrators to see the value of devoting resources to faculty development? How are we leveraging technology to effectively provide a space for critical conversations about teaching and learning and their connection to faculty goals and institutional initiatives? There is no doubt that faculty are key to improving student success, yet not enough attention is given to supporting faculty, both full-time and part-time, and in providing tools to enhance their instructional approaches. In addition, faculty are too-often called out as a barrier to innovation, yet they are often not offered meaningful opportunities for practice improvement, reflection, and collaboration with peers.

A relatively new model of personalized and cohort-based online professional development, stemming from a multi-year, foundation-funded, national research project, is showing great gains as an essential resource. The model, as documented in the book, Taking College Teaching Seriously: Pedagogy Matters!, (2015) focuses on using innovative technology to empower an online community of practice, individual reflection, and direct application of evidence-based instructional practices. This work, which started with a focus on developmental education in community colleges, is now gaining traction across various institution types as a scalable way to support instructional innovation and provide access to all faculty by leveraging an online educational development model.

This session will explore the methodology and solution that offers a supported, online community of practice. By creating space for faculty to meaningfully engage in national conversations on evidence-based instructional practice, we will share how this approach creates sustained pathway for innovation to occur, while generating data for faculty and the institution to help drive change and demonstrate how teaching practices are linked to institutional goals. Faculty begin to see how to use evidenced-based practice in concert with the integration of digital tools and other institutional initiatives, thereby impacting the effectiveness of not only teaching, but also implementation. We will dig into the design thinking principles that inform the model and the technology that supports it. We will also showcase institutional implementation of this work through the lens of a faculty participant’s and facilitator’s experience and outline how this model could be integrated into existing faculty development programming and how it can be used to generate data to support institutional effectiveness, strategic planning, and accreditation. Participants will have the chance to engage in a reflection activity and will participate in a storytelling exercise to explore their own perceptions of reflective practice, communities of practice, and appreciative inquiry as a way to enhance teaching innovation to impact student success.