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Eight Ways to Support Faculty Needs with a Virtual Teaching & Learning Center

Teaching and learning support professionals, particularly those who must perform miracles as a “Department of One,” can have one of the most challenging jobs on campus. They not only support the course design, content delivery strategies, technology integration, and training/orientation for faculty and students in online learning programs (asynchronous and synchronous formats), but they also support all other teaching/learning needs for classroom, blended, and any other teaching environment. This professional may be an instructional designer, an educational technologist, or very often, a designated faculty member with some or all of these skills.

During this decade, there has been a trend within academic institutions to create full-service, multi-staffed Teaching & Learning Centers, which may have various nuances in titles, such as Center for Excellence in Teaching. Still, a great many smaller institutions have not been able to fund and staff such formal support environments, particularly within the current economic crisis. Nonetheless, the rapid changes and expansion of ideas, techniques, and technologies to enhance teaching and learning and, thus, to also assist in the development of faculty competence and professional advancement, continue to make equal demands on every institution’s ability to provide appropriate support.

Through my own experience of nearly 15 years, research on other similar situations, and discussion with colleagues operating under the same conditions (no Teaching and Learning Center, no multiple support sources), I’ve developed a “virtual” T & L Center framework.

By taking advantage of the myriad of low-cost and free resources available, along with equal parts creativity, resourcefulness, and determination, implementing the strategies outlined below will help support professionals successfully meet faculty needs for improving and enhancing teaching and learning.

Tips for Creating a “Virtual” Teaching and Learning Center

Leverage expertise of faculty who are experienced with student-centered learning and educational technology

Create resource/reference repository for teaching and scholarship

Participate in listservs, SIGs, conferences, forge I.T. Department relationships, build in-house support

Mine the Web: including free sites for self-paced faculty training on specific methods and tools, as well as sites that teach integration of particular tools within standard course content/design

Extend your reach

Take the “building block” approach

Form Internal User Groups, such as a group focused on learner-centered teaching

Create an annual faculty showcase

Kelly, R. (2009). An Inexpensive Way to Bring the World to Your Course. Online Classroom, May, 1-2.

Kathleen MacDonald is an Associate Professor and Director of Instructional Design Services at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences.