Virtual Summits: A Firm Framework for Conveniently Sharing and Receiving Practical Strategies While Saving Time and Money

Concurrent Session 6

Brief Abstract

How do faculty developers, leaders, and online learning practitioners share practical strategies while optimizing scarce resources, collaborating innovatively, and reaching a wide audience? A recent trend for achieving such aims has been through the use of virtual summits. This session will provide a framework for organizing and facilitating virtual summits.


Firm Faith Watson currently serves as the Director of the Faculty Development Center at Murray State University. In this capacity, she organized various faculty development initiatives including the New Faculty Orientation, Online Course Design Institute, and Fall Faculty Summit. She is also host of the freely available This Works for Me Virtual Summit. She developed a love for teaching while serving as a lecturer at the Jamaica Institute of Management. She completed a Master of Science in Education degree with an emphasis in Workforce Education and Development at Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC). Subsequently, she earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Learning Systems Design and Technology at SIUC. She also earned several professional certifications that have honed her faculty development skills. Firm Faith’s faculty development experiences include serving as the Instructional Designer in the University Center for Excellence in Teaching (UCET) at Indiana University South Bend (IUSB) for over five years. While serving in that capacity, she developed various professional development opportunities to help faculty design and facilitate face-to-face, blended and online courses. She also conducted the annual assessment of the faculty development activities provided by UCET. Prior to serving at IUSB, Firm Faith served as an online course manager at SIUC, for over five years, where she taught online courses and trained online course managers to teach online.

Extended Abstract

One of the greatest challenges faced by higher education professionals - faculty developers (directors of teaching centers, instructional designers, instructional technologies) and other leaders and online learning practitioners - is using limited resources (e.g., time, money, and personnel) to provide innovative strategies to help faculty succeed.  How do higher education professionals conveniently share best practices or strategies that work with faculty and colleagues at their institutions and beyond? Given the various opportunities to learn online, share strategies, and collaborate innovatively, how can education professionals take advantage of these opportunities to optimize scarce resources (including reducing the need to physically attend several external training)?

One of the most recent trends for conveniently sharing practical strategies that work has been through the use of virtual summits. Virtual Summits make take different forms and often involve a host conducting individual interviews with several individuals during a specific timeframe and sharing the recorded interviews with viewers who have indicated interest in viewing the summit. The host usually share the recorded interviews at specific times (e.g., once per week for 12 weeks or 1-2 interviews per day over several days). Some virtual summits are: (1) offered at a cost (2), made available for free during a specific timeframe and are packaged and sold later, or (3) made available for free access indefinitely during and after the release date.  

Higher education professionals have the need to share knowledge with their colleagues, staff, trainees and learners, however, this sharing of knowledge and skills can be very costly and time consuming. For example, faculty developers need to provide professional development opportunities for faculty, and in many cases, there is the need to bring in experts or individuals from outside the institution to share best practices or proven strategies. Securing these experts often cost thousands of dollars and require significant investment of time and other resources on the part of the speakers as well as the host institution. Working with scare resources to provide professional development is a common phenomenon in higher education and virtual summits, done well, could save faculty developers and other educational professionals thousands of dollars while optimizing other scarce resources.

This session will provide participants with a proven framework used by the director of a faculty development center at a university in the United States to organize and facilitate virtual summits. The director secured speakers in the United States and beyond to share best practices and strategies that worked for them in areas such as leadership, teaching and learning (in various modalities), tenure and promotion, technology, research, accessibility, and more. The speakers also shared useful resources, lessons learned, encouragement and or a challenge (call to action) for viewers. The speakers were higher education professionals (e.g., faculty developers, faculty, editor-in-chief or premier academic journal, and other leaders) some of whom have served as conference keynote or plenary speakers. The speakers consented to participate in the virtual summits at no charge to the host of the virtual summits. The virtual summits were offered to viewers in the United States and beyond for free.

The format for the virtual summits involved interviewing 12 speakers for each season. For example, Seasons 1 and 2 were offered during the Fall and Spring semesters respectively. During each season, one of the twelve recorded interviews was released weekly over 12-13 weeks via the faculty development center’s Teaching Tuesday newsletter, Youtube channel, Facebook, and other media (e.g., listserv). Viewers could access the free summit on the release date and after at their convenience. Viewers also had the opportunity to continue the conversation (e.g., by adding comments to the Youtube videos).

Designing and facilitating virtual summits that attract the free participation of world-class speakers (who often charge for doing keynote addresses in other venues) need to be done in a strategic way that provides value to the host, speakers, viewers and other stakeholders. Faculty developers and other education professionals who see the need to conduct virtual summits, need not start from scratch or do it alone. In this session, the facilitator (who hosted the virtual summits) will reveal a proven framework for designing and facilitating virtual summits that optimize scare resources such as time and money while giving speakers and the host opportunities to conveniently impact and influence a wider audience that are very grateful for the shared strategies.

Level of Participation:

During the session, the facilitator will provide concrete strategies (including lessons learned) in order to innovatively collaborate with others to organize and facilitate virtual summits.

Session participants will have opportunities to:

  • review the virtual summit framework to get ideas that are unique to the virtual summits that they could host;
  • gather insights from the host to clarify their unique ideas for their virtual summit;
  • ask questions regarding how to organize and facilitate virtual summits; and

Session Goals:

By the end of this session, participants will be able to:

  1. review virtual summit episodes (including the recommended resources provided by the virtual summit speakers)
  2. review supporting materials needed for a virtual summit (e.g., flyers, landing page, proposal submission platform)
  3. use the virtual summit framework to develop a virtual summit action plan

Participants will also receive full access to the virtual summit playlists and the resources shared by the virtual summit speakers.

Virtual summits, when organized and facilitated well have the potential to help education professionals optimize scares resources, lesson the workload for providing the needed professional development, and provide great value (including practical strategies, influence and impact) that a wider audience may access at their convenience.