Professional Development and Support…A Snapshot


Daniel Hoppe, Jr., Contributing Authors: Deri Amason and Lynn Wahl

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This is the next post of a series of Trends & Perspectives blog posts. The Track Chairs will reflect on each of this years’ presentation tracks, analyze and discuss some of the trends that you can expect to hear about at OLC Accelerate this year, and also get the perspectives of the Best-in-Track winners.

In higher education, there are certain things all faculty can count on every semester: new students eager and willing to learn, chairs and deans looking to them for support and, of course, professional development.  The reality is professional development tends to take a backseat to the many other needs with which faculty are tasked.  At the same time, without effective and accessible professional development, faculty can feel out of the loop, underappreciated, and disconnected from their peers and the institution.  We all crave a level of growth and knowledge, and this is no different for faculty. 

With an examination of the proposals submitted to the professional development track for the Online Learning Consortium (OLC) Accelerate Conference, we can see the many areas of interest and need associated with professional development in higher education today.  The concept map below developed by my co-chair Dr. Deri Amason visually highlights the many topical areas and focus of the sessions available to attend at this year’s conference.

A few consistent trends we noticed in the proposals, which also resonate with trends in the field include:

  • Institutions required to do more with less
  • Technology as a driver for flexible and credible professional development
  • A focus on engagement for both students and faculty.

The first trend we would like to address is doing more with less.  Although most institutions see the value of professional development, the reality suggests most cannot offer endless resources to support the level of training needed.  In many ways, this leads to those responsible for professional development to rely on creative methods to meet the needs of their faculty.  Several sessions offered this year focus on collaboration, resource utilization, and creative models to deliver effective and meaningful professional development.  These sessions are sure to spark some insight and ideas on how deliver training, regardless of your available resources.

The next trend suggests the use of technologies as a driver for delivery of professional development.  Today, like our students, faculty have a multitude of activities and expectations, which results in their inability to participate in traditional professional development opportunities.  Flexible learning is the key here.  Utilizing an array of technologically driven trainings, available on demand has proven to be successful for many of our presenters.  Podcasts, video presenting and gamification has opened new doors for faculty interesting in participating, but with limited time. 

Finally, engagement is something all of us are very conscience of when it comes to the delivery and planning of online learning.  I had the pleasure of having a discussion with our Best in Track presenter for this year Lynn Wahl, regarding her presentation Faculty Engagement in 3 Facilitation Models of Online Professional Development Workshops. 

Lynn’s presentation topic started with the creation of one online workshop at her college to address a very specific learning gap that was occurring. The workshop was so well received, they created two other online versions of existing face-to-face workshops. 

A major focus in the planning and development of these online workshops was in ensuring they genuinely fulfilled the needs faculty have without overburdening them with unnecessary information delivered at the wrong time. The online modality was chosen very specifically for two reasons:1) to provide a more application-based workshop where faculty would have time to apply what they learned and get feedback, but also 2) so faculty could fit the workshop in to their already busy schedules. 

This design thinking approach was used for the creation of all of their online offerings and continues to be used for the creation of new online workshops. Using analytics to evaluate user experience was a much-needed step in the testing phase of the design thinking process and their continuous improvement of the workshops.

Lynn’s main goal in this presentation at OLC Accelerate will be to showcase how you can use simple learner analytics like page views, discussion forum mapping, and assessment reporting in combination with surveys from online professional development to improve participant experiences and engagement. 

So often, the only kind of feedback training authors are able to get on professional development strategies are through surveys, and they often do not contain the level of detail needed to truly improve the content and user experience in meaningful ways. Even the simplest learner analytics can help to fill this gap and provide a more complete picture needed for purposeful and meaningful revision.

OLC Accelerate is the perfect place to highlight how our peers are facilitating professional development and support every day. Attendees come from very diverse backgrounds, from k-12 to corporate to higher education, and their insight and experiences are always an exciting addition to the presenting experience.  We look forward to seeing you at the 2019 OLC Accelerate Conference!

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