Faculty Online Training: faculty driven development to support online teaching

Concurrent Session 5
Streamed Session

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Brief Abstract

This lecture will give an overview of the Faculty Online Training course, a faculty driven initiative. Designed and presented by faculty, the course offers support for faculty designing online resources with oversight from faculty mentors, while providing best practices resources and creating a community of online educators. 


Suzanne Szucs is an educator, artist and writer. A professor of Art+Design since she graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Design with an MFA in 1995, Szucs teaches photography, portfolio and media arts courses at Rochester Community and Technical College in Rochester, MN. A recipient of many awards and grants for her artwork, Szucs actively exhibits her work and has been making a series of videos exploring the Great Lakes, having lived near each of them at some point in her life. In 2018 she completed a second masters in Technology Integration from St. Cloud State University. As a result, she has been transitioning into online training for faculty and is passionate about improving online education. She was recently accepted into the 2020-22 cohort for the MNReflect Scholarship in Teaching and Learning program through Minnesota State. Her plan is to research equity in online education.

Extended Abstract

Overview: During a time when college educators are pressed to move courses and/or course material online, is it enough to have strong and useable online standards as guidelines? How about faculty who have taught face-to-face for decades, should we expect them to understand online pedagogy with similar depth without any training? This lecture will give an overview of the Faculty Online Training course, a faculty driven initiative. Designed and presented by faculty, the course offers support for faculty designing online resources with oversight from faculty mentors, while providing best practices resources and creating a community of online educators. 

After studying the needs of faculty, the Online Education Committee (OEC) proposed and created an online course designed to support faculty in the design or redesign of a course for online learning. This course, Faculty Online Training (FOT), was designed to support faculty in applying newly adopted online standards through an exploration of pedagogy for online learning along with learning management system (LMS) best practices and tutorials. Presented from a faculty perspective, the course is designed to support faculty in their own objectives, including providing faculty mentors for all participants. Presented as a course through the same LMS students use, the course uses best practice design to give faculty (and administrator) participants real world experience in best practices for online design and delivery.

Often these kinds of training courses focus on learning a lot in a hurry. FOT instead looked at what would be of most value to an already overcommitted faculty body. Faculty development sometimes takes the form of getting the most “bang for the buck” and checking off boxes – rather than providing useful and lasting information. A major question with quality faculty development, or in new initiatives (such as creating an online course from established course material), is how to create faculty “buy-in”. The faculty FOT team therefore focused FOT on three areas: 

  • Make it manageable
  • Make it beneficial
  • Encourage community building

Make it manageable: Instead of a crash course in online course design, the team decided that this development should fit into faculty schedules, not overwhelm faculty. The length of the course was then determined by the academic calendar and spread throughout the year as opposed to claiming a single chunk of time. The online standards were broken down into 8 chunks with the course offered in monthly segments, allowing faculty plenty of time to participate in the course while still maintaining a full course load. This also allowed faculty to implement some of the best practice tools within concurrent courses they were teaching, discovering what worked and didn't in real time.

Make it beneficial: Oftentimes faculty are asked to participate in faculty development projects that don’t appear to have any obvious benefits for their day to day teaching and learning. This project has been designed to directly support course creation, with feedback given to faculty at every stage of the process, however without onerous and complicated rubrics (a simple on/off rubric was used). Participants were also given the option to choose where they were put their efforts, with mentoring from other faculty mentors, but no requirements for a specific level of completion. In other words, with pressure to prove off, faculty could put their efforts into areas they felt they most needed to address. Because the course happened over real time throughout the semester, feedback from participants was continuous with material added on-demand. 

Encourage community building: Beyond providing individual support, a primary goal of the course has been to create community amongst faculty working online. The course met once a month for a "roll-out" of each module, during an in-person, synchronous, asychronous session. During the session, faculty would discuss concerns and outcomes, keeping the presentation directed towards the group needs. This community building became apparent when the CoVid pandemic caused a shut down and transition of all courses to online delivery became necessary. FOT participants and mentors took an active role in directing all faculty in putting their courses online in a hurry by providing mentorship and resources individually and broadly. The FOT course resources were provided to all faculty as support as well as specific guides to start up. Having a community of active faculty online designers helped the institution navigate the overall online transition, spreading out the workload amongst the faculty and support staff as opposed to isolating it into one area, easily overloaded. Sharing information better helped participants to engage with innovative practices within their areas of specialization. 

Interaction: In the spirit of community building, this remote presentation will build on the expertise present in the audience to guide the conversation around faculty development best practices. Depending on enrollment, a breakout discussion on best practices will take place towards the beginning of the presentation, so that attendees build a foundation for their personal/group concerns regarding faculty driven best practices. Those collected concerns will then be used to help drive the conversation towards the aspects of the material in which the participant/learners are most interested. Throughout the presentation, there will also be times to collect information to add to resources from the participant body.

Optional areas for participants to learn:

  • Strategies for creating an instructional design process 
  • How faculty can take ownership of faculty development
  • Overview of online standards – what to look for
  • Overview of FOT course features and layout
  • Evaluating and training best practices
  • Strategies for using LMS effectively
  • Creating course support resources quickly
  • Curating course content
  • Results and feedback from the design and implementation process
  • Implemented changes and next steps