June 25th, 2009

Five Tips for Designing an Online Faculty Workshop

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What is the best way to train and support a beginning online faculty member? At some colleges, the only option is on site training held on the campus over a day, a weekend, or a period of days during the summer. These on-site workshops, while potentially very effective, commit the faculty members to time, travel, and often inflexible scheduling. However, Berkeley College, with campuses in New York and New Jersey, has designed an online faculty workshop and set of training and support tools to complement its other professional development offerings.

These offerings include an online teaching tutorial; on-site beginning, advanced, and instructional design workshops and open labs at all campus locations; online peer mentoring by discipline, an online faculty recourse center, and a variety of personnel to support faculty training. The center of all of this activity is Mary Jane Clerkin, coordinator of online faculty support.

Tip #1: Remember that although not all online faculty will be physically located off-campus, that doesn’t mean they will have a great deal of available time for face-to-face training. Online training can be a good solution to varied and busy schedules.

Clerkin notes that the college piloted an online workshop with just seven faculty members as participants. This initial group liked the training, so the college made a two-week workshop for beginning online instructors available. The team is now working on offering courses for advanced faculty and for instructional design.
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Although the beginning instructor’s workshop is billed as a two week endeavor, the actual amount of time that completion will require depends on the individual faculty member’s technical expertise. The course is replete with resources, including the textbook that complements the course. The text offers an excellent companion website and a link for beginning online teachers.

Tip #2: Videos can be a good way to personalize online training and to allow the participants to get to know the resource personnel they will need to be successful.

The online workshop also includes an online faculty resource center, which features tools and resources that faculty likely will need. This includes a faculty handbook, a checklist for a successful course created by the dean, and a section on academic integrity.

The online faculty resource center is conceived as “a place where faculty can share,” says Clerkin. For example, all faculty meetings are held online through a section of the resource center dedicated to discussions. This section also includes discipline-specific discussions for faculty in certain subject areas, and an option for voice discussions. There is even room for faculty-initiated interaction projects; for example, one faculty member has asked to run an online book club, so that discussion area is now found online.

Tip #3: Allow faculty the chance to personalize online space in order to keep them coming back. An online book club or other non-work interaction may make them feel more at home online.

The site also includes a number of forms that the faculty members will need as they do their work, such as progress reports. “All they have to do is click to take any one of those forms,” says Clerkin.

Tip #4: Put all of the forms and information your faculty will need online in easily downloaded formats, so that they can be accessed at all hours from any computer.

The site is filled with models and best practices. One section includes sample courses in a variety of disciplines, which allows participants to view a successful course and learn what aspects they might adopt for their own. There are also many sets of directions and instructions for using common tools, like Blackboard.

Tip #5: Just as you would have tests and assignments for students in an online course, consider having assessment activities for participants in an online training workshop, so that they may demonstrate mastery of the materials.

The online faculty workshop requires the participants to demonstrate competence with practical applications. Each participant is asked to complete certain tasks, like posting a comment, to show their readiness to teach online. At the end of course completion, they are sent certificates of completion to show that they successfully navigated the course.

Excerpted from Distance Education Report, Dec. 15, 2007.