Online Excellence Initiative: Preparing Faculty for the Future of Teaching Online

Concurrent Session 7

Brief Abstract

This presentation showcases university initiatives inspired by the pandemic. This includes a summary of findings of an oral history project that documented faculty online teaching experiences during the pandemic and perceptions of how this impacted their teaching. The presenters describe a resulting multi-pronged university initiative that encourages uses of research-based, online teaching practices.


Dr. Olysha Magruder is currently the Director of Learning Design and Faculty Development of the Center for Learning Design and Technology at the Whiting School of Engineering, Johns Hopkins University. She teaches graduate-level education courses at Hopkins focused on online teaching and learning. Prior to this, she worked as an instructional designer at Hopkins and other higher education institutions as an instructional designer and adjunct faculty. Olysha started her career in a K-12 classroom, which sparked her love for all things teaching and learning. She is a graduate of the University of Florida's Educational Technology doctoral program. Her research interests include active learning, faculty development, blended learning, instructional design, and leadership.
Paul Huckett is the assistant dean of learning design and innovation and lecturer with The Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering. As assistant dean, Huckett provides strategic vision in teaching, learning, and technology across the school, including curriculum development for new and existing online programs, learning assessment, faculty development, and management of a team of instructional design and accessibility experts. As a lecturer, Huckett teaches Strategic Communications in Technical Organizations as an online course. Additionally, he led the development and facilitation of Inclusive Online Teaching Teach-Out on Coursera. Huckett's passion lies in creating rich and engaging learning experiences in online environments. He has multiple publications relating to this, including Magruder, O., & Huckett, P. (2022). 'Chapter 2 A Replicable, High-Touch ID Support Model'. In Quality in Online Programs; Huckett, P., & Utara, C. (2020). Improving Student Outcomes and Experiences with Exceptional Instructional Design. Improving Student Outcomes and Experiences with Exceptional Instructional Design.

Extended Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic forced colleges and their instructors to quickly transition their courses online. While challenging, faculty learned new teaching strategies and educational technology that they can continue to leverage in the future. Many faculty who had been resistant may be more likely to consider teaching online – either fully online or in a blended format. Therefore, the disruption presented an opportunity for instructors to reconsider how to facilitate courses and for institutions with resources to realize strategic goals related to expanding and improving online teaching. How can institutions learn from the past and plan for the future? This presentation will explore two related university initiatives inspired by the pandemic to inform the future of teaching online.
Participants will leave this session being able to:

  • describe how the pandemic will inform future teaching of faculty who participated in an oral history about how the pivot to online teaching during the pandemic will inform their future teaching, and 
  • describe a multi-pronged, faculty development initiative to support faculty plans and university strategic goals for teaching online in the future.

The presenters will first discuss an oral history project to capture instructors’ experience teaching online during the pandemic. Teaching support staff and university archivists a college partnered on this project as a recognition of the historic nature and future impact of the quick pivot to online teaching.
The project was guided by two objectives:

  1. document faculty’s experience as an important event in university and higher education history, and 
  2. provide faculty perspectives on their experience to inform future teaching support.

The presenters will summarize key themes identified from a qualitative, narrative analysis of interviews with over 25 faculty who taught courses across multiple disciplines. While some reflections on pandemic teaching will be shared, the primary focus will be on faculty’s comments about how the pandemic will impact their future teaching, specifically online instruction.

From these experiences, the presenters submitted and received a grant to create and develop a multi-pronged faculty development initiative led by staff and faculty from several divisions. The Online Excellence initiative was motivated in part by experiences supporting faculty during the pandemic. The program developers also recognized that a time of social change could drive online teaching innovation and achieve strategic goals for expanding online education, encouraging faculty to continue to embrace and evolve their online teaching, and improving student learning. 
The Online Education Excellence initiative was founded on three goals 1) train faculty to teach online to improve student learning outcomes, 2) support divisional faculty development offerings, and 3) showcase excellence in online teaching. Recognizing the value of this proposal, the Provost’s Office provided an innovation grant to support its implementation. The presenters will describe this cross-divisional effort, including the three main components of the Online Education Excellence initiative. 

  1. Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on the foundations of teaching online courses - Hosted on Coursera, this course provides an overview of best practices and access to resources in online teaching and learning.
  2. Certificate Program - A certificate of completion program complements the MOOC with a series of training modules on research-based practices for designing and facilitating an online course. Graduates of the certificate receive a badge that can be displayed digitally and carried into a professional setting.
  3. Annual Conference - The third component is an annual conference showcasing online teaching excellence and innovation at the host institution along with leaders from other institutions. The conference was inspired by an online symposium focused on reflections from teaching online held in December 2020 by the presenters. This university event was critical to building community during a time of isolation while also serving as an opportunity to showcase online teaching best practices. The presenters will share lessons learned from this symposium and how it will inform the structure of future Online Education Excellence conferences open to the host institution’s faculty and colleagues from other institutions.

The presenters will describe each component in detail and how they intentionally designed them to complement each other along with existing faculty development programs within the institution. Initial implementation data will also be shared along with how it informed program changes. Participants will also learn how faculty and staff at their institution can participate and, where appropriate, contribute to future programming (e.g., annual symposium). The goal is to make these resources available broadly to complement faculty development programs across higher education. 
In the spirit of continual improvement, the presenters plan to engage participants at the conference session to capture feedback on the design and initial implementation. These activities will include either in-session surveys or Google Jamboard activities. This approach will give all participants the chance to suggest ideas in real time while the presenters can highlight specific comments for which they want more information or to generate additional discussion to further brainstorm the idea.   These activities will serve as a needs assessment about how the Online Education Excellence initiative should continue to evolve to meet the broad faculty development needs of other colleges while also improving the offerings for instructors at the host institution.