Building a Blended Learning Certification to Support Faculty Transitioning from Face-to-face to Blended Instruction

Concurrent Session 1

Brief Abstract

Faculty skilled at teaching in a traditional face-to-face environment often struggle to shift to a blended learning model. A blended learning certification helped faculty to be successful with this transition. Join me for an interactive presentation and discussion on the design and implementation of the certification.


Jessica O'Brien is the Coordinator of Instructional Technology and Associate Librarian at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, North Carolina. She earned an MS in Online Teaching and Instructional Design, an MA in Liberal Studies,both from Lenoir-Rhyne and an MA in Library and Information Studies from the University of North Carolina Greensboro. Jessica collaborates with the Director of the Center of Teaching and Learning to provide quality faculty development and support to instructors on a range of technology topics.

Extended Abstract

To help faculty at a small, private, liberal arts university transition from teaching in a face-to-face environment to a blended learning one the Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning and myself, as the Coordinator of Instructional Technology developed a blended learning certification. We adopted the pedagogies of blended learning to provide faculty development for two cohorts of professors transitioning courses to blended learning formats. Our Blended Learning Certification consisted of twenty hours of contact time over two semesters. Participants in the program identified a course to develop for a blended learning environment. The first phase of faculty development occurred in the semester prior to implementation of that course with seven hours of face-to-face contact time and approximately the same amount of online instruction. The second phase occurred during the semester of implementation. Participants observed each others’ classes and provided formative feedback before regathering at the end of the semester for intentional and focused reflection.

Beyond simply describing the Certification, this session explores the design and delivery of the program which took into consideration the need for faculty to experience learning in a blended environment. The certification itself was in a blended learning format with participants completing assignments that directly connected to the content of the synchronous sessions. We intentionally modeled both effective and ineffective blended learning teaching strategies and invited participants to reflect on those practices and their experiences. For instance, in a discussion forum assignment we offered a range of feedback in several different formats and asked our participants to reflect on what kinds of instructor presence and feedback were most effective and why. We intentionally created opportunities in the online components of the program to meet the needs of individual faculty, mirroring best practices in blended learning. For example, participants were invited to use digital tools to collaborate with one another as they designed their distinct courses, and to meet the needs of diverse learners, the program was designed to accommodate the varying needs of different cohorts.  

In summary this session provides the theory behind and the process for one institutional level response to providing faculty development for professors transitioning into the world of blended learning. Key takeaways for participants in this session will include the need for faculty to experience learning in a blended environment, the need to tailor programming to meet the needs of the individual and the cohort, the need for faculty collaboration in the development of blended learning courses, and the need for focused time for reflection on the blended learning experience. Participants will who are looking to design their own certification will gain insight into what worked for us at our small institution and hear from others in the room who have had similar experiences. Additionally this model could be adapted to other faculty development topics. Faculty attending may discover another mode of training or development that they can suggest to their own professional development staff.

This topic is relevant to the OLC community as it helps to further OLC’s mission as it combines online learning with face-to-face instruction. Fellow educators will be able to use the certification program’s success and challenges to help inform their own professional development offerings.

As part of my presentation I will use Pear Deck to engage my audience. Pear Deck is a Google Slides Add-on which will allow me to pose questions to the audience and to receive and share instant feedback. Questions can be created on the fly, so when someone from the audience poses a question that would benefit from a whole group response, I can immediately type the question onto the Slide and participants can respond. Unrelated to the content of the presentation, prior to the beginning of my presentation and at transition places, I plan to quiz the audience on some pop culture from 1994 embracing the 25 year anniversary of the OLC. Audience members should byod so they can participate.

Level of Participation:

This session will make use of Google Slides and the Add-on called Pear Deck. Pear Deck allows the audience to use a join code to anonymously respond to questions posed by myself as well as by other participants as I enter them into the slides on the fly. Keeping with the theme of the conference this year, I will also use this technology to pose trivia questions to the audience highlighting pop culture from 25 years ago in order to introduce Pear Deck and ensure everyone’s comfort with it and to provide a way for transitions between sections of the presentation.

Session Goals:

Individuals attending this presentation will be able to discuss ways in which the blended learning program uses blended learning pedagogies to help faculty be successful in a blended learning environment, describe the components of a blended learning certification, and adapt the certification to meet other faculty development needs in a blended environment..