Creative Teaching with a Mentoring Focus in a Standardized Online Gen Ed Course

Concurrent Session 1
Streamed Session

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Brief Abstract

This session will share our exploration of creative teaching practices aimed at implementing a mentoring approach, while also striving at maintaining appropriate academic rigor, in a standardized large-enrollment gen ed course. Attendees will learn how creative approaches despite standardization may lead to more positive student outcomes, such as increasing student engagement and persistence and engage in discussion to consider mentoring approaches to teaching.  


I am currently a Professor and interim Associate Dean in the School of Arts, Humanities, and Education at American Public University Systems. My previous roles were department chair (8 months) and faculty director (7 years). I have been an educator for 25+ years, with 13 years in online higher education. I love what I do and the transformative power of education, where we make people's dreams come true by helping them become even better, reaching their personal and professional goals.

Extended Abstract

In this session, we will share a pilot teaching exercise conducted with four faculty members who each taught the same gen. ed digital information literacy course, and any results obtained, as well as applications this brief exploration might have for online faculty more broadly. The digital information literacy course is a gen ed class required by all students, and it is typically taught by a large number of faculty members each session start date. Because it is a large-enrollment course, the teaching approach tends to be somewhat standardized, as well as the course contents.

During a pilot exercise, we met with four faculty members and provided them an orientation to faculty mentoring as a teaching approach. We provided brief examples of ways in which they might engage differently with students under mentoring guidelines. And, we gave these faculty members the flexibility to reduce their compliance to expected norms in other areas of their teaching, to make room for an increased focus on mentoring approaches. Faculty met together in a small group several times prior to the course start date to brainstorm what approaches they might use and how they would modify their typical instructional strategies, such as forum engagement.

As a result of the creative freedom and mentoring guidelines given to these four faculty members, we found that each one followed their own unique path to modifying teaching and adopting a new approach. In this session, we will share the four different approaches faculty members used to modify their typical teaching with the intent to mentor students to some degree while maintaining academic rigor, and the clear persistence and achievement results we noticed in our data after the courses ended compared to classes taught under typical conditions.

This presentation is focused on faculty teaching practices and will explore ways in which faculty might explore creative approaches to expand their teaching repertoire, as well as ways in which results might be monitored and measured to determine whether they are effective such as in areas of student persistence and achievement.

Participants will engage in discussion and gain ideas about strategies that may be used effectively to mentor students in a typical gen. ed course, which may also be applicable to non-gen. ed courses as well. 


Schwegler, A.F. (2019). Academic rigor: A comprehensive definition. Quality Matters White Paper. Available at