Building a Community of Learners Through Faculty Development

Concurrent Session 9

Brief Abstract

Northern State University has built a community of learners in faculty development by providing a faculty grant to become certified in online teaching through OLC.


Matt Norsworthy, Ed.D. establishes relationships with institutions in order to develop strategies for improvement in their online and blended programs. Matt provides professional development options and project development solutions for institutions of all sizes, both public and private, domestically and internationally. Dr. Norsworthy has been designing, developing, and teaching English and Humanities courses for over fifteen years. He has a Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing from National University and a Masters of Liberal Studies in English from Fort Hays State University. In addition, he holds a Doctorate of Education in Higher Education and Organizational Change from Benedictine University where he wrote his dissertation on “A Comparison of the Experiences of Online and Face-to-Face Doctoral Students in the Humanities”.

Extended Abstract

This presentation will inform and educate participants regarding a structural innovation implemented at Northern State University in partnership with the Online Learning Consortium (OLC). The Northern State University Request for Proposal for a faculty grant opportunity in the Online Learning Consortium Online Teaching Certificate Program was created for academic year 2014-2015. The original cohort included five Northern State University faculty who were either tenured or on tenure track. In addition there was one Master Teacher from the Center for Statewide E-learning (CSEL) and one Instructional Designer. The grant has continued ever since with two additional cohorts completing their work in 2015-2016 academic year. Northern State University will have an additional 12 Faculty and 1 CSEL Master Teacher certified in Online Teaching through OLC by May 2016.

Northern State University identified grant funds to be used for promoting faculty excellence in teaching. The grant provides each faculty member with a $1500 stipend and funding to complete the Online Teaching Certificate program. The faculty member uses a current online course or a new online course that they will be teaching after completing the certification process.

Applications submitted on or before the deadline were organized by the Director of Instructional Design to present to the Provost and Dean's Council. Selection criteria included faculty status, year(s) of teaching online courses, whether the proposed course was redesign or developed included for an online program, whether this was an undergraduate or graduate course, and average student enrollment. There were seven grants awarded in each round.

Grant recipients are required to complete the OLC Teaching Certificate Cohort, which is comprised of one foundation course and three electives. Workshop tracks include Online Design, Online Learners, Online Tools, and Online Management. The faculty members have explored an array of topics, developed strategies to build their own online courses, and have given and received peer reviews. The faculty participants also work in teams with mentors who provide one-on-one coaching as they proceed through the online teaching certificate program. The participants in the certification program have demonstrated their mastery of the basic elements of designing, building, and teaching online courses to include: planning the course, understanding role adjustment, organizing the course, incorporating the advantages of online communications, and applying the pedagogical principles that create purposeful learning communities.

Faculty development opportunities were also created for the instructor status faculty at Northern State University. Faculty with the rank of Instructor have an earned master's or other degrees or qualifications recognized under academic program or discipline accreditation standards. Instructor rank is not tenure-track. Faculty classified as instructors completed a similar RFP grant document to complete an OLC workshop. There have been 10 instructors who have, or are, completing workshops from the four different workshop tracks.

The Northern State University faculty grant proposal system is designed to provide tenured or tenure track faculty the opportunity to design a new online course or redesign a current online course. Faculty will also give presentations at the annual "Faculty Tech Sessions" each May as part of Northern State University's professional development program. Building a community of learner's at Northern is the intent for the faculty tech sessions. The dialogue has opened communication between colleges and departments for a cohesive and supportive campus atmosphere.

Currently there are 91 full-time faculty, 11 Master Teachers, two Instructional Designers, 1 Technology Integrationist, and a Director of Instructional Design at Northern State University. The goal is to continue offering additional grant opportunities for all tenured/tenure track faculty to earn their certification. Faculty who earned their Online Teaching Certificate have requested grant opportunities to complete OLC's Advanced Online Teaching Certificate program, which is tentatively planned for academic year 2018-2019.

The presentation will engage the audience by reviewing the components of the faculty grant and Online Teaching Certificate program as it has been implemented at Northern State University. The presenters will engage the audience and gain audience contributions with interactive question and answers in order to recognize some of the obstacles and issues in faculty professional development and community building. The results of this innovation will be shared with the audience along with tips and ideas for audience implementation at their own institutions.


ï Compare how a small Midwestern university leveraged funding to partner with an internationally recognized online organization for faculty development.
ï Recognize how relationships across academic units can be developed through competitive grants using faculty courses as a tool for change.
ï Present the benefits of the faculty grant system and OLC Online Teaching Certificate program.

Media to be Used: PowerPoint Presentation, Northern State University website, Kahoot

Equipment Needed: Projector, Internet Connection