Faculty-to-Faculty and Student-to-Faculty Support in the Move to Online Instruction
Concurrent Session 5
Many educators struggled with the rapid online transition with uncertainty and reluctance, but urgency necessitated change. We developed a faculty-to-faculty and student-to-faculty support and training system to help instructors transition online. Hear how faculty benefited from instructional design students’ and faculty peers’ help with the redesign of courses throughout COVID.
Many educators have been struggling with the rapid and immediate transition to the unfamiliar with insecurity, trepidation, uncertainty, and reluctance, but urgency necessitated change. A number of feelings that accompany changing the way we “have always done things” have emerged and illuminate one of the many reasons education may be slower to adapt to our ever-evolving world. The solution, however, to such insecurity is through proper preparation and support. We developed a faculty-to-faculty and student-to-faculty support and training system geared toward helping instructors transition to teaching in online environments. Hear how faculty benefited from having instructional design graduate students and fellow faculty members help them rethink and redesign their teaching and learning strategies following the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was not until the world needed to quarantine its population that the importance of online learning and training was recognized by many in the U.S. as a TRULY viable and necessary learning option. Prior to the pandemic, many educational institutions merely dabbled in online learning, but now everyone had to transition completely and immediately. Many colleges and universities moved classes online quickly, while PreK-12 institutions took longer to transition. Some teachers and faculty continued their business-as-usual approach to lecturing through video conferencing softwares, often causing “Zoom fatigue” (Sklar, 2020), while others changed their syllabi and plans altogether to focus on human connection in the new times of social distancing (Supiano, 2020).
What was clear, however, was that most teachers, faculty, trainers, designers, technologists, and students were not prepared for the sudden shift to online learning (Williams June, 2020). Many instructors had never taught online and trainers and designers were not prepared to move large numbers of courses to the online format in short order. And most problematic was the inequity in access to online learning and technological resources that became glaring throughout the transition (Schaffhouser, 2020; Schoology, 2020).
Dissemination of courses in online environments is increasing throughout the world (Arghode et al., 2017; Frass, Rucker, & Washington, 2017; Hart, 2012). According to Nguyen (2015), there are several potential benefits to online learning, which include: cost-effectiveness, professional development uses, credit equivalencies, and overall effectiveness in connecting students to opportunities around the world. Additionally, these environments may allow students to reflect more deeply on materials, participate more meaningfully, interact more effectively, and improve their learning outcomes (Nguyen, 2015). Online learning can take many shapes, where students can participate in fully online environments or in blended formats, either synchronously or asynchronously (or a combination of both), and with any level of interactivity, authenticity, and engagement.
Often the best online experiences are those that are motivating, flexible, realistic, supportive, collaborative, and replicate in-person activity (Arghode et al., 2017; Hart, 2012; Nguyen, 2015). Unfortunately, many instructors have not received training on how to build online courses, use unfamiliar technologies, or instruct online learners (Bates, 2015; Frass et al., 2017). Instructors are encouraged to work with subject matter experts, educational technologists, and instructional designers to develop well-designed materials and courses (Arghode et al., 2017; Bates, 2015) but may not have access to such resources. These collaborations can generate more thoughtfully designed materials geared towards the specific needs of the audiences they are serving (Vallera, Thorpe, & Kleintop, 2019).
Our program houses an Instructional Design and Instructional Technology master’s degree in the College of Education. Current students and recent graduates of the program, whose focus included instructional design and development using innovative technologies, were selected as “Instructional Design Interns” to work with faculty throughout the University in their transition to online teaching and learning. Interns helped guide faculty one-on-one through the transition process while focusing on course type and format, student engagement and motivation, content delivery in synchronous and asynchronous modalities, and the development of authentic assessments. Additionally, faculty who have successfully integrated online courses partnered with the University’s instructional design and instructional technology staff members to deliver training courses, seminars, and workshops to help faculty prepare for the summer and fall semesters.
The support and training program originated in the College of Education, but quickly spread around the University and was adopted by many programs and departments to create consistent and thoughtfully planned and designed online transition materials. Hear stories of the successes and challenges we faced throughout the online transition using student-to-faculty and faculty-to-faculty training and support.