Tipping Point: Finding the Balance Between Doing "for" and Doing "with" Faculty Preparing to Teach at a Distance

Concurrent Session 6

Brief Abstract

Scaling efforts to prepare faculty teaching at a distance requires a balance between doing ‘with’ and doing ‘for’ faculty.  As online course offerings grow rapidly, flexible and responsive approaches are required.  This session presents an approach to preparing faculty to teach at a distance and develop online courses more rapidly.


Dr, Lujean Baab serves as the Senior Director for Grants and Awards for Technology-enhanced Learning and Online Strategies at Virginia Tech. Prior to moving to this position, she led a team of instructional designers, instructional technologists, support and content development specialists, graphic and media developers, digital image repository management, digital media services, assessment and research specialists who with faculty to develop online courses, provide instructional design and course development through cohorts, faculty working groups and individual consultation. Dr. Baab has been a faculty member and administrator for online learning programs for over 15 years. She has previously served as Director of Educational Technology for Moravian College in PA, a Director of Distance Learning for Northampton Community college in PA, and the Director of Graduate Programs in Education for DeSales University in PA. She holds an Ed.D. from Pepperdine in Educational Technology and an MA in Communications from Marywood University. She also holds a K-12 certification as Instructional Technology Specialist and was responsible for building and administering an online program in PA leading to that certification.

Extended Abstract

Initiatives at Virginia Tech and a newly instated strategic plan rely heavily on the ability to offer courses completely or partially online.  The large number of faculty requiring professional development and assistance to prepare to teach at a distance and to develop courses and content for online delivery required a complete overhaul of the approach to professional development, instructional design and content development services. 

Motivated by the demands of departments and programs across the university, the number of faculty seeking assistance grew rapidly.  However, limitations on faculty time remained and faculty demanded more flexible, responsive and precise offerings to meed immediate needs and remove any impediments to meeting deadlines for the transformation of courses and approaches to teaching and learning at a distance now in demand.

In response to these demands, the Learning Experience Design team of Technology-enhanced Learning and Online Strategies (TLOS) at Virginia Tech partnered with the professional development network to develop modularized, flexible professional development supported by instructional design and content development assistance.  

Micro-credentialing was introduced to identify scaffolded four-hour modules which could be combined to reach the level of preparation required by individual departments and programs.  In addition, video-based, self-paced one- to two-hour training options were developed as pre-requisite to credentialing or course design assistance and for remediation as deemed necessary.

The preparation to teach at a distance was divided into two stages; introduction and advanced.  These were offered separately from the session on preparing to develop a distance learning course which was also developed as a scaffolded process; preparing to develop and the course development project. 

In addition, a ‘master’ series was developed to identify advanced faculty who serve as peer mentors, guides and reviewers for colleagues in the process of preparing to teach or develop a course for distance learning.

The quality assurance process for distance learning courses, required by Virginia Tech’s Distance Learning Policy was also adapted to allow for independent course development with assistance from Master Faculty or with department or college support to be submitted for review.  These are in addition to the courses developed through the structured process supported by instructional designer and content development support provided by Learning Experience Design. 

This transformational change in approach, professional development and support options was conducted with no increase in resources or personnel, resulting in more cost-effective and efficient use of internal resources and partnerships allowing for inclusion of external resources and personnel.

This session will present the process that resulted in the transformation and expansion of services and support, the options developed and the lessons learned along the way.  It will also share the results of research conducted on the extent to which the new approach resulted in a reduction of faculty resistance, an increase in faculty satisfaction, as well as input by academic administration on the overall effect of the approach in supporting more rapid growth in distance learning offerings at the university.  We will also share the management processes developed with regard to project management and the tracking and reporting of faculty credentials and course quality assurance review.

Participants will be invited to share their challenges and experiences and to discuss ways in which the process and information shared can be adopted or adapted for use at their own institution.