Just in Time: Teaching Online- A rapid, scalable, & collaborative framework for training & evaluating teaching online

Concurrent Session 3
Streamed Session

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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

 The COVID-19 pandemic required rapidly moving a large number of faculty and courses online. We developed a framework, accessible to all skill levels, that incorporates best practices and strategies while collaborating with faculty and utilizing existing campus resources. Participants will actively collaborate in adapting the framework to their needs.


I have been in the Instructional Technology field for 10 years, focusing online course design and faculty collaboration. I am currently an Instructional Technologist and Designer at the Queens College Center for Teaching and Learning, I received my MA from TC, Columbia University in their Instructional Technology, Media and Design program after focusing on the various macro and micro factors that are essential to successful online course design, as well as a mechanism for collaborative faculty development. This work is essential to my work with collaborators. It was remarkably timely in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, in which this framework was utilized in part as we moved hundreds of faculty online. I am a firm believer that online learning and education must be designed with the modality in mind- one cannot just copy and paste in-person materials into an online frame. We must take into account the limitations and affordances of a modality, and how that works in concert with the human element- prior knowledge, cognitive load and the like. I also believe that for design to be successful-one must be flexible with the mechanisms. For today’s learning to be successful, we must analyze and utilize the most effective learning framework, modality, and methodology. Each circumstance should take into account the goals, prior knowledge, motivation, affordances and limitations of the modality, and learning framework. We must adapt and change as we collaborate.
Michelle Fraboni is Assistant Professor in the Department of Elementary & Early Childhood Education at Queens College, where she teaches digital literacy to preservice teachers. Before Fall 2020, Michelle spent more than ten years working with the Center for Teaching & Learning at Queens College, serving as Associate Director from 2013 - 2015, and Director from 2015 - June 2020, providing QC faculty with opportunities to enhance their teaching in online and face-to-face environments. She continues to work with faculty through the STEM Bridges Across Eastern Queens grant (http://hsistem.qc.cuny.edu), funded by the United States Department of Education.

Extended Abstract

Teaching faculty to teach online and creating quality online courses is an ongoing conversation in academia. Something that has always been very clear to instructional technologists, designers, and experienced online faculty is that courses must start with the learning objectives and be mindful of the modality. One cannot and should not simply copy and paste face-to-face course content into the online frame. One must take into account the affordances and limitations of the modality, the nature of motivation in online courses, and the technical capabilities (and limitations) of both students and faculty. With the Covid-19 pandemic, we were forced to move an unprecedented number of faculty and courses online. Many faculty and administrators still envision online courses as simple replications of a traditionally formatted lecture, leaning heavily on “sage on the stage” direct instruction, with occasional high stakes assessments.  CTLs can serve as a fantastic resource, clarifying for both administration and faculty, the strengths, and limitations of online teaching. This is necessary to ensure the quality of education and engagement, during the rapid transition to the online teaching environment. Given the financial constraints that have also hit universities on a global scale, campus Teaching and Learning centers must rapidly accommodate the massive number of faculty who require support in teaching online, without the additional resources or staff that would normally come into play when dealing with a transition of this scale. This conversation is of course ongoing, but we need rapid action that does not function well with the bureaucracy that large institutions tend to have. How then, can we leverage our existing resources to suddenly increase the number of faculty and courses we are supporting by an order of magnitude?

In order to handle all of these requirements and constraints, we developed a framework that addresses these concerns, as well as incorporates strategies and practices that we have found beneficial. During the session, we will gather input from participants in the room on how their campuses handled this transition, collected in a collaborative document. We intend to connect the participants in an ongoing community of practice through a Slack channel that will allow participants to continue this necessary ongoing discussion including what worked, what didn’t, and what we should do going forward.

Then we will discuss specifics of our framework and with a lens to adapting and applying this strategy to participants' individual campuses. A broad overview of this framework is below:

  • First, figure out where your faculty are. How many are already trained to move their courses online? What is the scaffolded approach that can fill the gaps for faculty with some online training? How can we handle faculty who have never taught online? Further, how can we work with faculty who have no experience with any form of technology-enhanced teaching?

  • Next, Leverage existing resources- find faculty in different departments who are experienced in teaching online to serve as peer mentors and resources for their colleagues. In addition, pull in support staff whose roles may not be as utilized during the transition to distance learning.

  • Set upTriage- train support staff on more basic support to allow instructional technologists, designers, and faculty peers to focus on pedagogy and advanced issues. Pull in support staff from across the campus who are no longer able to perform their current roles (ie: work study students) 

  • Create cohorts- train faculty on teaching online, holding sessions both on specific aspects people need help with, as well as full “bootcamp” training sessions. 

  • Make a direct support joint email where faculty can email and get a rapid response. One very common issue we have encountered with faculty is when there is a delay in response to their request for support, they are less likely to attempt to use the pedagogical or technological resource in question. 

  • Have regular “virtual open office hours”  where faculty can “enter” to ask any question. With more niche questions, support personnel are standing by who can “take them out” of the room in order to more directly help them. If a question requires higher-level intervention (ie: a level of expertise the support person doesn't have)- they pass it on to the appropriate person. 

  • Assessment- Faculty are required to be certified as being able to teach online. They must either be assessed as having existing competency teaching online or complete our online teaching bootcamp which involves a full course and syllabus review by the instructional design and technology team. 

  • Improve- Disseminate a survey, see what went well during the current and previous cohorts, and implement feasible improvements while maintaining the need to create pedagogically and technological competent faculty.

An important factor in all of these areas is flexibility. Unlike in the past, where we could plot out a semester or years worth of workshops in advance, such a strategy is not applicable to the current situation. Rather, as learning technologists and designers we need to be able and willing to assess current needs, design, plan and implement faculty development suited directly to the needs of our current faculty.

This analysis involves cross-referencing the pedagogical needs of the class and faculty with the best practices that come into play. The online training workshop itself is multi-varied in approach and combines technical and pedagogical sessions so as to prepare the faculty as best as possible. In one example of how we must continually assess and adapt- we have a large contingent of faculty who are accustomed to using whiteboards to teach their lessons. How can we leverage existing technology resources and enable them to utilize a digital whiteboard without requiring massive purchases? If additional resources are necessary, which ones are best for each situation?

In sum, moving forward in our current reality will require innovation, collaboration, and synthesis of all of our best ideas. This session will involve participants significantly as we collaboratively discuss the concerns and issues present with the current pandemic and creatively come up with solutions.

Level of Participation- 

Rather than being a traditional “sage on the stage” presentation, this session will primarily be a “guide on the side” model, which will allow a more collaborative knowledge sharing session. First, we will ask participants to collaborate in a joint document to share what their specific challenges and experiences were. They will be invited to join a community Slack channel so as to build a vitally essential community of practice. (this Slack channel is modeled after a similar one made for the hundreds of experts across our university system).

After being presented with our framework, strategies, and challenges, the session will convene into “breakout groups” depending on which topic or aspect of the session the participants want to explore in greater detail. Currently, we plan to make breakout groups focused on  “Leveraging existing resources”, “Assessment”, “Infrastructure support”, and “Surmounting unforeseen challenges” but we plan on adapting the areas of focus based on the specific challenges the session participants present. Each breakout group will be moderated by a member of the team who focused on that attribute.

After returning from the breakout groups, participants in the groups will compare and contrast their experiences, allowing participants to figure out the most effective methodologies that they can take back to implement and improve on their own practices. 


Session Goals

Individuals attending this session will be able to utilize this framework to assist their own campuses in moving online, as well as develop a plan in case it needs to be done rapidly. They will come forth with the collective knowledge and expertise of other academic professionals looking to expand their online training and assessment programs. Due to the flexible nature of the framework, it can be implemented with all skill levels and can be fully online, fully in-person, or blended.