You Are Not Alone: Supporting Faculty Through a Learning Community

Concurrent Session 8
Streamed Session Best in Track

Brief Abstract

This session will tell the story of the creation of the LSU Online Teaching Cohort learning community, and how it supports faculty in their endeavors to develop and enhance their blended/online courses while forming interdisciplinary relationships and collaborating with colleagues across campus and peer institutions.

Presenters

I have about 10 years of experiences within the higher education setting as an Educational Technology Consultant at the Faculty Technology Center at Louisiana State University. In my role I assist faculty with the seamless integration of technology into their teaching and research. Through my consulting activities I provide support in the identification and application of technologies that foster innovative instructional approaches. I am also a doctoral student in the Ph.D. program in Educational Leadership and Research at Louisiana State University. My research interests focus on the topics of teaching and learning, distance education, faculty development, international education, innovation, and technology.

Extended Abstract

In recent years, Louisiana State University experienced a significant growth in the number of blended and online courses offered-paired with a continuously increasing number of faculty new to designing online courses. Acknowledging that faculty expressed feelings of isolation and apprehension in developing blended and online courses, the Faculty Technology Center, LSU Online, and the Learning and Teaching Collaborative formed the ‘Online Teaching Cohort’ (OTC) in the 2015 Fall semester. According to Cox (2004), faculty learning communities can “include many bridges linking faculty to deep learning, early-career faculty to experienced faculty, isolated teachers to new colleagues, departments to departments, disciplinary curricula to general education, and faculty to students and staff” (p. 18). The primary purpose of the LSU Online Teaching Cohort is to create an environment to engage the LSU campus community and peer institutions in discussions and activities in which members can share and learn online teaching strategies and practices to enhance their courses. Participating in this learning community provides members with opportunities to:

  • Receive help from others to solve current online teaching challenges.
  • Discuss strategies to effectively manage blended and online courses.
  • Develop interdisciplinary collaborations/relationships with colleagues across campus and peer institutions.
  • Enhance teaching skills to increase student success and retention. 
  • Provide a community of support amongst peers.

Each meeting is centered around a specific topic or focus decided on previously by cohort members, and can include presentations by guest speakers, demonstrations, or hands-on activities. A Community Moodle course was created to assist in the communication, resource sharing, archival, and assessment efforts of the cohort. Attendance is recorded after each meeting offering us opportunities to evaluate topics which are of most interest to the group. Records also allow us to reach out to those with minimal attendance to ensure their needs are being met. A survey was administered to all members after the 2015/2016 academic year providing us with feedback from members used to better serve the group’s needs. A Policy Working Group was established as a result of several concerns and challenges discussed at the initial meeting. The purpose of the group is to provide a setting to participate in conversations about online teaching policies at LSU from the faculty perspective, and to provide policy recommendations for topics discussed to offer consistency of practice across the university.

Recognizing that extending the invitation to instructors from other campuses to join would provide a diverse perspective to the learning community and assist those at other institutions with limited support resources, invitations were sent to faculty and staff at various institutions. The cohort currently consists of over 140 members (faculty, staff, and students) across a variety of disciplines, including peers from Southern University, Our Lady of the Lake College, LSU Alexandria, LSU Eunice, and LSU Shreveport.

This session will provide attendees with:

  1. An overview of the process of developing, maintaining, and evaluating the Online Teaching Cohort.
  2. A look at the Community Moodle Course which assists in the communication, resource sharing, archival, and assessment efforts of the Online Teaching Cohort.
  3. A take-away list of steps to implement an online teaching learning community on their campus.

References:

Cox, M. D. (2004). Introduction to faculty learning communities. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, (97), 5–23.