From Emergency Remote Instruction to Fully Online Teaching: A Peer Mentor PIVOT to Success Model

Concurrent Session 2
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Brief Abstract

Given the rapid shift to online learning, the Planning Instructional Variety for Online Teaching (PIVOT) program helped faculty better prepare for a long-term commitment to virtual instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn how PIVOT successfully incorporated faculty peer mentors to support instructors during their course design and online teaching journey.


As eLearning Manager, Dr. Mariann Hawken oversees several Blackboard applications at University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) and provides support for faculty course development activities. With more than 20 years of experience in educational technology, Mariann is a Blackboard MVP and a certified Peer Reviewer with Quality Matters. Past activities include distance education policy development and comprehensive faculty training programs for online/hybrid course redesign.

Additional Authors

Dr. Penniston has been involved with online and blended learning in different capacities – including as a student, instructor, builder, and administrator – for the past 15 years. He earned his PhD through UMBC’s Language, Literacy, and Culture program, and has extensive experience with quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods designs. Dr. Penniston implements, monitors, and evaluates initiatives related to instructional technology and student persistence and success, including predictive analytics projects, and supports faculty course hybridization in alignment with best practices. He also consultations faculty and staff on data gathering and analysis and conducts trainings.
Peter Ariev is an Instructional Design Specialist at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. He has previously served as the Associate Director of Teaching Development at the Johns Hopkins University Carey School of Business and as an Associate Professor of Curriculum and Instruction and Chair of the Education Specialties Department at Loyola University Maryland His scholarship addresses characteristics of teacher education programs, the role of 'performance-based' assessment in teacher development, and the use of teaching portfolios to promote professional development for higher education faculty. His work has highlighted the role of assessment in promoting student learning, the political context of teacher education reform, and the complex challenges underlying institutional change. Dr. Rennert-Ariev was the recipient of the University of Maryland’s School of Education Outstanding New Scholar award in 2009. Dr. Rennert-Ariev’s research has appeared in publications such as Teachers College Record, The Journal of Teacher Education, Teacher Education and Practice, and The Journal of Curriculum Studies and he has presented his work at various educational conferences including the American Educational Research Association, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the National Media Education Conference, and the International Conference on College Teaching and Learning. Dr. Rennert-Ariev has been involved in mentoring university faculty in developing teaching portfolios and his analysis of the role of teaching portfolios in higher education appears in the recent book The Teaching Portfolio (4th ed) , published by Jossey-Bass.

Extended Abstract

An American Association of State Colleges & Universities survey suggests nearly two-thirds of faculty at some colleges and universities are expected to teach hybrid and online courses, but only 56% of institutions provide formal pedagogical and technical training for online learning (Magda, 2019). Additionally, more than 80% of faculty and staff responding to a SP2021 EDUCAUSE survey on assessment and learning design anticipated online/hybrid learning would continue beyond the pandemic, but indicated they still needed support to get there.

Given the rapid shift to online learning beginning in spring 2020, our institution created the Planning Instructional Variety for Online Teaching (PIVOT) program to help faculty better prepare for a long-term commitment to virtual instruction. Leveraging an approach that targeted an individual instructor’s reflection on technology use, online pedagogies, and course content (Mishra & Koehler, 2006), PIVOT took faculty through a course design and online teaching journey. At OLC Accelerate 2020, we shared the genesis of this program and its early success story. Now we'd like to share one of its core components.

Since faculty engagement in planning and delivering this important training is critical to establishing peer relationships (Bain, 2004), the PIVOT program leveraged peer mentors for pedagogical and technical facilitation. Building long-term social networks helps reduce isolation associated with teaching online (Covington, Petherbridge & Warren, 2005; Shapiro 2006). As such, synchronous, virtual chats, scheduled at convenient times, complement asynchronous discussion opportunities, help provide support and encourage connections between across cohorts. Twenty-five (25) peer mentors across three colleges supported the faculty during the 2-week program and throughout the summer, fall 2020, and beyond. The PIVOT mentors hosted office hours, responded to group questions, and demonstrated course designs and tool usage. PIVOT faculty were exemplary models of peer engagement during a time when many faculty needed this support. 

During this session, conference attendees will learn about the PIVOT program and hear from several PIVOT peer mentors about their experiences supporting faculty. Attendees will be encouraged to share their experiences and examples of supporting faculty professional development and online learning during the pandemic. Presenters will leverage a variety of engagement strategies including poll questions and collaborative document creation. This session will incorporate a Jamboard so attendees can respond to open-ended prompts, brainstorm ideas, and save the resulting content for later reference.

Impact of Faculty Peer Mentors

About 275 faculty participated in the 10-day facilitated training during the summer. PIVOT+ was organized into college disciplines and communities of practice (e.g., labs, large enrollment) for summer cohorts. The College of Engineering and Information Technology further coordinated peer driven webinars and panels on STEM-specific topics while the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences organized smaller department-based cohorts within its larger PIVOT+ training to facilitate deeper conversations on course-specific topics. All colleges leveraged peer faculty mentors.

A February 2021 survey about lessons learned from teaching online during FA2020 offered early insight into potential growth opportunities for the PIVOT program. More than 200 faculty completed the survey, representing both PIVOT and non-PIVOT faculty groups. About half of respondents cited peers, particularly PIVOT mentors, in supporting preparation and delivery of FA2020 online courses. Faculty who did not participate in PIVOT programs were more likely to be critical of online learning and were more overwhelmed by tool selection than those who completed PIVOT, learned about tools from peer demonstrations, and met with peer mentors. 

Our institution also determined a statistically significant, positive relationship between a faculty member completing PIVOT training and elevated course-level average values on Student Evaluation of Educational Quality (SEEQ) surveys (p<.001). For Fall 2020, SEEQs increased by about .08 for those who completed the training when compared with classes taught by instructors who did not (4.354 on a scale of 1-5). Courses taught by PIVOT-trained instructors also have increased LMS interactions, which are both indicative of improved engagement, and can also be leveraged for more precise predictive modeling to inform student outreach. 

The Future of Faculty Peer Mentors

Grounded in effective practices and international standards for course design, PIVOT promoted key concepts in alignment of learning objectives, community building and engagement, and authentic assessment. However, formal assessment of course design using Quality Matters (QM) standards was not included in the PIVOT program due to time constraints. Moreover, faculty feedback and instructional technology staff reflection have informed a redesign of the program to better support faculty.

The peer mentor framework also contributed to a broader community of engagement and support for quality assurance. A cornerstone of the QM review process is collegial engagement. Building a community of faculty peer reviewers is essential to infusing Quality Matters as a theoretical framework, cultural philosophy, and operational practice for quality course design. Expanding the peer framework is an essential component for promoting a culture of continuous improvement.



Bain, K. (2004). What the best college teachers do. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Brooks, D. C., & Pomerantz, J. (2017). The 2017 student and faculty technology research studies. Boulder, CO: EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis & Research. 

Covington, D., Petherbridge, D., & Warren, S. E. (2005). Best practices: A triangulated support approach transitioning faculty to online teaching. Online Journal of Distance Learning Association, 8(1). 

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054. 

Lederman, D. (2020, March 20). Presidents fear financial, and human, toll of coronavirus. Inside HigherEd. 

Magda, A. J. (2019). Online learning at public universities: Recruiting, orienting, and supporting online faculty. Louisville, KY: The Learning House, Inc.

Shapiro, P. J. (2006). The evolution of peer driven training for teaching online courses. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 9(3), 1-6.