Helping Online Faculty Succeed

Online education programs are known for their convenience, but they’ve also developed a reputation for poor student retention rates. So when someone who oversees an online education program that maintains a 92 percent completion rate speaks, people tend to listen.

Such was the case at an online seminar titled High-Level Online Faculty Support for Low-Level Cost. The presenter was Kaye Shelton, dean of online education for Dallas Baptist University, and during the 75-minute seminar she shared her model for cost-effective faculty support.

Dallas Baptist offers approximately 275 online graduate and undergraduate courses each semester. The school employs about 130 full-time instructors with the rest of the course load picked up by adjuncts. Shelton’s support staff includes seven full-time and five part-time employees, plus a handful of tech-savvy student workers. This “ProfHelp” team, as it’s known, assists with everything from instructional design to technical support – anything an instructor needs to be successful in the online environment.
As part of the seminar, Shelton provided an overview of many of the free and low-cost resources used by Dallas Baptist faculty and shared the following 10 principles of high-quality, low-cost online faculty support:

  1. Keep in mind how important faculty are to overall program success. If they are well supported, they will be more confident using the technology with their students and students will be more satisfied.
  2. Create a website that organizes resources that faculty may easily access such as
  3. Utilize graduate students who need flexible work hours as support staff for course design and editing.
  4. Provide examples of exemplary online course design so that instructors can see the big picture.
  5. Provide access to quality online course rubrics such as Quality Matters and Cal State Chico’s rubric.
  6. Offer a peer mentoring program that links inexperienced faculty with experienced faculty.
  7. Use free open source software products for image editing such as GIMP and instructor-to-student course communication such as DimDim.
  8. Provide tutorials and demonstrations online which may be created with free products such as Jing.
  9. Keep faculty abreast of new methods and technology by offering a monthly newsletter via email or the web.
  10. Provide support for multimedia authoring such as creating audio-enhanced PowerPoint slides and interactive learning objects.