The Research Was Wrong: The Unlikely Outcome of Pandemic-Forced Changes in Training Models

Concurrent Session 1
Streamed Session Leadership

Watch This Session

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

At least in a pandemic, the research isn't always right regarding what works for faculty professional development. 


Dr. Tamara Powell is the Director of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences Office of Distance Education. She is an alumni of the OLC Institute for Emerging Leaders in Online Learning and a mentor for the OLC Online Teaching Certificate Program. She enjoys working with faculty as they translate their face-to-face teaching genius into an electronic experience.

Extended Abstract


Interaction During the Presentation

This presentation will begin with a Padlet where we will ask audience members to share best practices in faculty development. We will then ask participants to “like” posts that appeal to them, and we will reference them throughout the presentation. Next, we will put up a “backchannel”  and encourage attendees to “backchannel it up!” Panel will take turns monitoring the backchannel so that the audience gets to chime in whenever they desire. We run our online workshops in this fashion, and we enjoy it immensely. We will pause at points throughout the conversation to engage with the audience regarding their feedback.

What Has Traditionally Informed Our Faculty Professional Development Offerings

From Malcolm Knowles’ ideas regarding andragogy to Baldwin and Ford’s ideas of training transfer to Marc Prensky’s pronouncements regarding digital immigrants and digital natives, there has been no shortage of research on training older persons in technology and how best to do it. In 2010, I coauthored with colleagues a book chapter on faculty development for older faculty regarding teaching online. We were in Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and we thought we had something important to share. But those findings were turned on their heads during the 2020 pandemic and subsequent rush to remote learning.

During our 2010 research, we developed key points regarding online faculty development aimed particularly to support successful online teaching by older faculty. Those findings have informed my faculty development practices for 10 years, even as I have moved on to another institution. Key points include respecting faculty’s experience and expertise (Knowles 47) and being aware of senior faculty’s physical needs (Westerman and Davies 480). Here we are, in the midst of another crisis—global, not regional this time. And again, we are looking to online education to pull us through.


Like many teams in charge of faculty development for online learning, my team and I found ourselves in a quandary. Faculty development is not something to be undertaken lightly. We are asking for very busy people’s time. So naturally, we look to the research for best practices on ways to do more in less time. We want to support the movement of each faculty member’s individual teaching genius into the electronic format and we try to find the best way to facilitate this transfer. But the 2020 pandemic presented us with uncharted territory. With less than a week of prep time, our institution shifted to all remote (synchronous) or online (asynchronous) learning — using unfamiliar tools such as Teams and Collaborate Ultra to teach the face-to-face portions of traditional and hybrid courses. We also learned that all summer courses would be converted to remote learning or online delivery. How could we best support our faculty?


Our immediate response was to run as many on-site workshops as possible on how to use Collaborate Ultra, which is designed for remote learning and embedded in our learning management system. We offered two on-site workshops every day until campus closed. We have always capped our training time to two hours because that’s the amount of time that senior faculty (50 years and older) at our institution are comfortable sitting. But then, campus was closed. The spring semester was ending, and people were still in need of assistance. We had to prepare faculty who were being asked to move summer courses to remote and online formats. How did we support our faculty?


To support quick builds of online courses for summer and fall, we created two workshops—one for faculty preparing online courses for summer delivery (only six weeks away at the time), and one for faculty preparing online courses for fall delivery.

Generally, our workshops to support faculty creating online courses are in hybrid format and composed of eight weekly modules. Faculty must complete the online modules or attend the face-to-face meetings and are responsible for building online courses to quality standards. Therefore, the workshops are comprised of about 10 weeks to allow for “build time” and time for the team to evaluate the new courses with a quality checklist. We didn’t have time for that.

To condense the training, we created an all-day workshop (9:30-4:30) we called a “bootcamp,” delivered via Collaborate Ultra, that covered what we usually cover in modules 1-4. The rest of the training was moved online to be completed asynchronously and in tandem with faculty building their online courses. We called that workshop Spring Training A.  The design of this training was problematic in that it violated research that suggested older faculty, in particular, should not be asked to sit more than two hours at a time during training. In fact, my response to the proposed design was, “This is madness, but we have to do it!”

We organized the bootcamp by first, sending an advance agenda in an attempt to prepare faculty or, at the least, provide a handy reference during and after the training. During the bootcamp, our team of five (director, associate director, instructional designer, and two expert student workers) took turns presenting, monitoring the chat, troubleshooting, and providing technical support for faculty. The variety of voices and instant feedback helped to move the day along. In addition, there was an hour for lunch and stretch breaks were planned circa every hour so that faculty could get water, stretch, and take a brief screen break.

After the bootcamp, participants moved into the asynchronous, four-week online portion of the workshop which included two one-on-one meetings, via Collaborate Ultra, with the director or associate director.

The second workshop, run largely concurrently with Training A, was Spring Training B. In it, we ran the eight asynchronous modules, including two one-on-one sessions, because those faculty were building for fall and had a little more time. This workshop was in line with research findings and followed our normal asynchronous delivery practice.


We are nearing the end of trainings A and B, and we are surprised to find that participants in training A remained more focused throughout the training, they have been more responsive, and they have seemed more satisfied. In addition, they have, overall, been more successful at completion than participants in previous workshops or in workshop B.

In our initial satisfaction survey from training A, the bootcamp portion was the part they liked the least. As one participant remarked, “I think the bootcamp, the modules and the consultations were all valuable. But I would recommend that the boot camp be taken over two days. I just stopped absorbing the material by the second half of the day.” Indeed, this is the response we would expect from the research, and yet it seems somehow the bootcamp anchored the participants and helped them to invest in the workshop and succeed.

We will have more detailed information, including a comparison of success rates regarding workshops A and B, for our conference presentation.

For this presentation, we will present our findings along with survey results and arguments regarding whether this result was just a one-off from the emergency or a finding we can apply to all future workshops.

Future Work

For the summer, we have three type A workshops planned to see if we can replicate the success of our Spring Training A. We will collect data and see if this positive faculty response and outcome was simply a result of motivation from the pandemic, or if the eight hours of bootcamp does help focus faculty despite its lack of support in previous research.




Baldwin, T.T. and Ford, J.K. (1988), “Transfer of training: a review and directions for future research”, Personnel Psychology, Vol. 41, pp. 63‐105.

Knowles, Malcolm S.  (1980). The modern practice of adult education: From pedagogy to andragogy / (Rev. and Updated. ed.). [Wilton, Conn.]:: Association Press.

Prensky, M. (2001), "Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants Part 1", On the Horizon, Vol. 9 No. 5, pp. 1-6.

Prensky, M. (2001), "Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants Part 2: Do They Really Think Differently?", On the Horizon, Vol. 9 No. 6, pp. 1-6.

Rockett, Danika,et al. "Teaching Technology to Digital Immigrants: Strategies for Success." (2010) Adult Learning in the Digital Age: Perspectives on Online Technologies and Outcomes, edited by Terry T. Kidd and Jared Keengwe, IGI Global, pp. 178-187. http://doi:10.4018/978-1-60566-828-4.ch016

Westerman, S. J., and D. R. Davies. (2000) “Acquisition and Application of New Technology Skills: The Influence of Age.” Occupational Medicine, vol. 50, no. 7, Jan. 2000, pp. 478–482. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1093/occmed/50.7.478.