How to support faculty developing online and flipped courses

Modernizing our Faculty Development Philosophy

The instructional design staff supporting faculty developing online courses historically focused primarily on faculty receiving a course release for one semester for which their department was compensated under an award from the Provost’s office. The goal was to complete development within this one semester. Unfortunately, that was a rare occurrence. As a result, many course development projects lingered, funds were encumbered, and online courses were taught without being completely developed and reviewed for quality assurance.

In the Spring of 2013, the approach changed. Borrowing from Meirer (2000) and Piskurich (2006), we streamlined the process for faculty developers and instructional designers. Building upon previous successful initiatives that formed faculty learning communities, we invited faculty receiving awards to join a community focusing on the practice of developing high-quality online courses.

We adopted a cohort approach to project-based professional development in the form of an online course. This online course structured the instructional design process in which peers contribute to and reviewed the work of others in the cohort. While participating in the cohort, faculty developers met regularly with instructional designers providing guidance and assistance with meeting the requirements of the online course. Through this approach, we effectively established the beginnings of a community of practice (Wenger, 1998 ). Faculty completing the professional development and review of their courses were awarded the Master Online Educator certification and joined the community of faculty holding this certification.

During that semester, 24 faculty received awards allowing course release time to develop online courses. They participated in the professional development that began with a one-day workshop at the start of the semester followed by participation in the online course and regular meetings with their assigned instructional designer. The professional development provided assignments and due dates for course elements that effectively removed the ‘task master’ role from the instructional designer. That role was transferred to the facilitator of the professional development course. However, most of the incentive to stay on track came from peers who were required to review submitted assignments. Faculty also shared information and peer reviewed submissions of evidence and examples meeting the standards of the Quality Matters (QM) rubric. The review took place near the end of the development and prior to presentation of the course to the department head for approval.

Success in the Initial Trial of the New Faculty Development Process

For the first time, all 24 faculty involved fully developed their online course in one semester. They submitted evidence and examples for peer review for quality assurance, and presented both the outcomes of the peer review and the fully developed course to their department head for approval. All awarded funds were distributed to the department with none remaining encumbered over additional semesters. The difference was the streamlined process focused on development and not on the instructional design theories and process.

In Fall 2013, the instructional design staff merged with other units at VT to become Networked Learning Design and Strategies (NLDS) , a unit of Technology-enhanced Learning and Online Strategies (TLOS). This merger was in response to our strategic plan and associated initiatives. It expanded the scope of the instructional design staff from faculty who receive awards to develop online courses to all faculty seeking to develop online, hybrid and flipped classroom approaches. There was now an even more pressing need for scalability.

(Next page: VT’s process)

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