Shifting the Course Development Paradigm

Concurrent Session 3

Brief Abstract

Course design directly influences the level of engagement between faculty and students. Unlike traditional development, online course development requires the participation of instructional support staff. This session explores how the Provost of LIM College shifted the online course development model and thereby achieved greater faculty and student engagement.

Presenters

Mitch is a passionate, faculty development professional who has focused on innovation in the area of online course development. He earned a Masters in Educational Technology from Adelphi University where he worked for over six years in the Faculty Center. He is currently enrolled in a PhD program for Curriculum, Instruction and the Science of Learning at the University at Buffalo. His area of focus is on social learning and culture and how the two intersect through online technology.

Extended Abstract

Course development has typically been accomplished by individual faculty; however, online course development has transformed that process and requires a collaboration between faculty, instructional designers, Library staff, technical support, academic administrators and occasionally – external vendors. When faculty collaborate as an instructional team, they tend to be more efficient and effective which often leads to overall instructor improvement and an increase in student success (Moon, P. 2019).  One of the most - if not the most – critical aspects of any teaching environment is student engagement. In order for faculty to be able to engage with students meaningfully online, the course development model needs to be conducive to facilitating this process.

Research continues to demonstrate that instructor presence and engagement in online courses positively affects student satisfaction and helps to increase retention (Garrison, 2007; Anderson & Elloumi, 2004; Shea, Pickett & Pelz, 2003). While some institutions take a standardized approach to online course development, this method often creates a dissonance between students and instructors. In a standardized model, courses are fully developed and leave little to no room for faculty to make it their own, treating instructors more like facilitators who only provide feedback and comment in discussion boards.

When LIM College launched its fully online degree programs in 2015, an external vendor was hired to establish the development model because online course development was still so nascent. At that time, a standardized development model was identified to be the best fit for the institution given the size of the school and its plans for scaling up. Courses would use a template that would include pre-recorded lectures and learning content that could not be modified. Instructors hired to teach these courses would act as facilitators by providing feedback on assignments, commenting in discussion boards and responding to emails. However, this highly standardized template was met with challenges from both faculty and students. Faculty raised concerns about their roles as facilitators versus teachers and were yearning for greater control and flexibility.  

In 2018, the Provost initiated a change management plan that would shift the culture for course development at the College. The plan was centered around three key facets: buy-in, timeline and evaluation. A critical aspect of the plan also included bolstering LIM’s internal capacity to develop online courses. Under the leadership of the new Provost, the Director of Faculty Development, Chairs and academic department heads/administrators worked together to implement a more faculty-driven, collaborative model for development of online courses. This would allow incoming instructors to have the ability to make the courses their own by recording their own mini-lectures, updating course content, etc. Through faculty development programming, instructors are encouraged to infuse courses with their own presence and increase their instructor-student connection.

Courses that have been developed under the new model are currently being utilized and evaluated. Faculty preparedness programs have also been updated and tailored to meet the needs of the new format. The new model is being evaluated using the following instruments and data: student-faculty engagement in the LMS, faculty surveys and interviews, student surveys and interviews, and student learning outcomes and retention rates.

In this session, participants will learn about the various bottle necks and challenges that the Provost initially faced and had to overcome. The initial presentation will serve as a jumping off point for a larger discussion on how to develop and implement a change management plan at other institutions. Participants can expect to leave the session having mapped out some new ideas and strategies to promote greater student success and improve retention in online courses and programs.