At the 17th Annual Sloan Consortium International Conference on Online Learning in 2011, the presenters shared Bay Path College's three-tiered, comprehensive faculty development initiative that incorporated cohort-based orientation, peer-mentoring, and ongoing support. The presenters explored this initiative in-depth in the JALN article "Orientation, Mentoring and Ongoing Support: A Three-Tiered Approach to Online Faculty Development". Since that time, online enrollment and offerings have grown at the College (as they have at many institutions) to a point where the model employed was no longer scalable. Additionally, new faculty contracted by the College were more often than not arriving with extensive online teaching experience and had neither the need nor the time to effectively engage inAll parts of the faculty development initiative. The College's Center for Online Learning (COL) recognized the challenges presented by the changing landscape and modified key elements of the Excellence in Online Education Initiative to address the needs for relevance and scalability. Presenters and participants will explore the following three main challenges and the solutions that breathed new life into this historically successful faculty development initiative.
The first component of the faculty development initiative consisted of the Faculty Orientation to Online Education, which ran for eight weeks and included an introduction to online learning pedagogy and covers such topics as building community in an online course, how to assess online learners, and how to integrate web 2.0 tools into the virtual classroom. New faculty members began arriving at the College with extensive online teaching experience and no longer needed a "soup to nuts" orientation course. To address this challenge, the COL revised the Faculty Orientation to Online Education toAllow for a module-based, self-paced experience. The COL also developed a "Faculty Orientation Experience Survey" that nowAllows the Center for Online Learning to determine which modules faculty need to complete within the orientation. Depending on the level of self-reported online teaching experience, some modules of the Orientation are no longer required. This solution addressed the need to a more relevant and personalized learning experience forAll online faculty new to the College.
The second component of the Excellence in Online Education initiative involved mentorship. At the start of the orientation, participants were assigned a mentor who was currently teaching an online course. New faculty were given guest access to their mentor's course so they could benefit from seeing a live class, observing asynchronous discussions in progress, and having an additional resource available to them when they had questions. The COL was not willing to compromise here and wanted to maintain the connection between new and seasoned faculty. To address the need for more flexible mentoring opportunities, the COL began polling seasoned online faculty at the start of each session to gauge interest in mentoring opportunities. Interested parties are now paired up with new faculty as soon as new faculty engage in the Orientation. This has not only maintained the mentor/mentee connection, it has provided this connection in a timelier manner.
The third component of the Excellence in Online Education initiative focused on on-going support and included a thorough review of every upcoming online course. To make this quality control process more scalable, the COL placed more of the responsibility for quality in the hands of our faculty. While newly developed online courses are still fully reviewed by the COL, faculty teaching previously developed courses are charged with ensuring that their course is ready to be made available to students. Faculty are now provided with a syllabus and course review checklist that they must use to review the course and notify their program directors when ready. COL staff remains available to provide assistance, if needed, during course set up. This change has transferred ownership of course quality to the faculty andAllows the COL to provide support when needed, enabling the COL to focus on areas of greatest need and address scalability concerns.
Rapid growth, increased comfort with online learning, and scalability areAll current trends in online education today. Bay Path College is not alone in finding that their current online faculty development efforts need a facelift. After discussing the challenges presented and resolved by the COL, participants will have the opportunity to discuss their unique challenges with the group as a whole. By remaining flexible and adaptive, we feel that our revised approach to online faculty development willAllow us to continue to provide a quality online learning experience for the "next generation" of online learners and leaders.