Supporting Faculty Through The Transition Online: The Collaborative Creation and Implementation of Faculty Development in Response to COVID-19

Concurrent Session 2
Streamed Session

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Brief Abstract

Panelists from a large urban research university share their experiences participating in an innovative faculty professional development initiative in response to COVID-19. This initiative provided the opportunity for various groups across campus to come together and support faculty’s transition to online, hybrid, and blended instruction in preparation for the Fall 2020 semester.


Dr. Katie Sharpe is an instructional designer with a background in both education and research. Katie currently supports faculty with the design, development, and delivery of both online and on-ground courses. Her focus is on maintaining a high level of instructional impact by incorporating best practices in instructional design and creating positive learning experiences for students and faculty. As such, her research explores potential avenues to increasing students' educational experiences.
Dr. Scott Vann is the Assistant Director of Digital Learning for The University of Memphis. Scott oversees the UM3D team that manages the design, development and delivery of all UofM Global courses. Scott also is involved with corporate partnerships, such as the FedEx LiFE program, managing all instructional technologies. His focus is providing innovative technologies to assist faculty with designing and developing quality online programs for UofM Global. Scott has an EdD in Instructional Design and Technology. His primary research interests are within gamification-based learning, especially within faculty professional development.
Dr. Diana Ruggiero is an Associate Professor of Spanish at the University of Memphis where she currently specializes in world languages for specific purposes (WLSP; Spanish focus) and community service learning. An engaged scholar recognized by her professional peers worldwide for her contributions to scholarship and teaching in WLSP and Spanish language and culture, her current teaching and research focus is on WLSP pedagogy, Spanish for healthcare and the Latinx Community in Memphis. Among the many Spanish for specific purposes courses that she develops and teaches for the Department of World Languages, such as Spanish for healthcare, Spanish for commerce, Spanish for community engagement, Dr. Ruggiero teaches medical Spanish interpreting and translating, which is a pre-requisite to obtain the national certification for medical interpreting. Dr. Ruggiero's graduate course on teaching Spanish for specific purposes is a methodology course that prepares future language teachers to teach WLSP and Spanish for the professions. Other research interests to date include WLSP, Linguistics in healthcare, heritage language learners, cultural competence and intercultural sensitivity development, service-learning project design and assessment, Medical interpreting and body language, and issues and methods in WLSP, L2 and heritage language learner pedagogy. She serves the Latinx community in collaboration with local non-profit organizations, including serving as a board member of Latino Memphis. In response to Covid-19 and social distancing measures, Dr. Ruggiero is most recently active developing, participating in, and supporting engaged scholarship initiatives (remote and face-to-face) focusing on the mental, emotional, and physical health needs of the local Latinx and other underserved populations of Memphis. In partnership with local non-profits Cazateatro and Latino Memphis, she developed and produce content for a Facebook page (Bienestar901) and a related podcast series addressing the health and wellness needs of the local Latinx population during the pandemic. Dr. Ruggiero provides support for the Memphis Latinx population in the way of translation and interpreting services, educational talks, workshops, and materials, and support and discussion groups, among others. Dr. Ruggiero is the recipient of an American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese (AATSP) Teacher of the Year Award (College Level), an American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL Nelson Brooks Award for Excellence in The Teaching of Culture, a Strengthening Communities Capacity Building Grant (University of Memphis), and an Early Career Award (University of Memphis) in recognition of her many contributions to research and teaching in the areas of WLSP and community service learning and Spanish language and culture. Dr. Ruggiero's research appears in the Cuadernos de ALDEEU, Revista Signos, Revista de lenguas para fines específicos, Journal of Languages for Specific Purposes, Global Business Languages, ADFL Bulletin, Hispania, and Latin American Music Review among other peer-reviewed journals and edited volumes.

Extended Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has not only impacted students’ readiness for online learning, but it has also had a profound impact on faculty’s readiness to teach online. The rapid expansion of online course offerings has challenged faculty to transform how they teach and deliver their courses like never before. During this online transition, providing adequate professional development to faculty has been critical to promoting student success. Educators need to be familiar with the learning management system and provided with adequate pedagogical resources to promote student success in a digital environment.  

As such, university leadership at a large urban research university created an initiative to provide such support to faculty during the summer of 2020. Leadership reached out to instructional designers and instructional technologists on campus to provide training and resources for successfully designing, developing and delivering courses in an online learning environment. While all online program faculty are regularly provided training and support, this professional development was the first comprehensive online training of its kind made available to all faculty on campus, regardless of their online teaching experience.  

The purpose of this particular professional development program was to introduce all faculty to online course standards in order to ensure consistent quality across all online/remote/blended courses as well as create a community of support for faculty as they continued to navigate the transition online. As such, the professional development program, Faculty Summer Institute, was designed to provide professional development specific to the university’s online design, development, and delivery standards while also providing faculty with a solid support system as they built or modified their Fall 2020 courses. University leadership encouraged all faculty to register for the Institute and provided compensation for completing the professional development. 

Instructional designers created the professional development experience and worked with instructional technologists to train six hundred faculty on evidence-based instructional practices as well as technology tools. Faculty fellows were recruited by leadership and instructional designers to provide additional faculty support and a level of mentorship/community. While the roles of university leadership, instructional designers, and faculty fellows were uniquely different during this initiative, the Faculty Summer Institute provided an experience for stakeholders to come together and support faculty across campus. 

What exactly did the Faculty Summer Institute look like? How was it designed? What were the outcomes? Has the Institute influenced other initiatives on campus? How can you leverage support teams across your campus to continue assisting faculty during this unique time in higher education? During this panel discussion, these questions and those of attendees will be answered by representatives who participated in various ways during the 2020 Summer Institute. Come join us to learn more about lessons learned and the impact of this innovative faculty development initiative. By participating, we hope you will leave our session with practical ways you can implement a supportive online faculty development experience that continues to prepare faculty with the strategies and tools needed to design, develop, and deliver quality online, hybrid, and/or blended instruction in response to the current health crisis.

Key Takeaways:

  • Participants will gain insight into various stakeholders’ involvement in the creation and implementation of the 2020 Faculty Summer Institute.

  • Participants will engage in dialogue with the panelists regarding challenges and successes of designing and offering this type of faculty development.

Participants will have access to the following materials during the presentation:

  • Presentation slides

  • Demo account to review components of the 2020 Faculty Summer Institute Course