Faculty-to-Faculty and Student-to-Faculty Support in the Move to Online Instruction

Concurrent Session 5
Streamed Session

Watch This Session

Brief Abstract

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.


Farah L. Vallera teaches instructional technology and teacher education as a Professor of Practice in Lehigh University's Teaching, Learning, and Technology graduate degree program and is a practicing instructional design consultant in higher education. She is currently serving as a Creative Inquiry Faculty Fellow where she is working to reimagine and redesign existing courses by integrating new (or different) active pedagogies for students to pursue inquiry through new intellectual, creative, and artistic pathways. She received a Ph.D. from Lehigh University in Teaching, Learning, and Technology, where her focus was on using innovative educational technology in the design and dissemination of STEM-integrated agricultural literacy curriculum for elementary students. She also has an M.A. and B.A. in sociology from Lehigh University and Centenary College, respectively. Aside from teaching courses and research in instructional design, design thinking, makerspace development, mobile technology, and blended/flipped learning, she develops multicultural, inclusion, and diversity awareness course materials and enjoys practicing urban agriculture and volunteering as an agricultural educator for diverse audiences. Dr. Vallera has presented on building makerspaces, instructional design strategies for blended/flipped learning, and using augmented and virtual reality in multiple settings at international, nationals, and regional conferences, such as: OLC, NAAEE, NARST, NAITC, ASA, PETE&C, NE-ASTE, and many others. She has several chapters and articles published about building courses and materials using innovative educational technology for multiple audiences and content.

Additional Authors

Xeniya is a Fulbright Scholar at Lehigh University. She has more than 10 years' experience in teaching English as a second language to diverse audiences. She has conducted several teacher training sessions for the Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools network and district schools in Kazakhstan. She is an educational content developer passionate about instructional design with implementing innovative technology, project- and inquiry-based learning, developing and managing web content for online learning platforms. She has designed and developed elective course programs for gifted students preparing them to pursue higher education in English. The course programs focus on practicing IELTS/TOEFL exams and content learning through 17 UN Global Goals. Her interest and portfolio are in conceptual education, designing and delivering curriculum and instruction aimed at teaching the Sustainable Development Goals and Values through language and literature, creating learning experiences with real-life connections to prepare learners for living in a globally interconnected world.

Extended Abstract

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.