The first time I sat down to assist a faculty member with the design and development of an online course, I quickly realized how daunting a task instructional design consultants face when they work on faculty development programs in educational technology. This instructor told me that she always saved her students e-mail by deleting it because at least then she knew where it was. Through working with her, I came to understand that the consultant must assess and then build the faculty member's basic computer and internet skills, as well as explore his or her traditional classroom teaching methodologies and determine how these practices can be applied in the online environment. Furthermore, the consultant must assess the faculty member's willingness and ability to implement the effective online teaching practices and content delivery methods allowed by educational technology.
The instructional design team for eCollege.com is responsible for mentoring faculty in the design, development, and teaching of online courses for the academic institutions with which we partner. We face not only the challenges noted above, but also the challenge of working mainly at a distance with largely unknown faculty groups and academic institutions whose emerging online programs may have politically charged backgrounds affecting faculty support. The issues of distance and anonymity faced by online instructors become our issues as well:
How can we help instructors overcome the technology barriers to faculty development in online teaching so that education takes place instead of simple training?
How can we design and teach our faculty development workshops and materials in such a way that as many instructors as possible, despite different learning styles and levels of resistance, are successfully engaged and drawn into the learning process?
How can we model our faculty development techniques to facilitate independent, life-long learning in education and Internet technology?
What we have discovered in the course of our own education on how best to work with faculty is that sometimes the old answers are the best answers.
Principles of Good Practice
In 1987, Chickering and Gamson (see Chickering and Ehrmann, 1996) translated raw data from decades of research on the "undergraduate experience" into what they called the "Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education." Their goal was to give instructors overall guidelines to make their teaching more effective in the classroom, with suggested practices ranging from the establishment of frequent teacher/student contact to the recognition of different learning styles.
In response to the emerging role of technology in education, Chickering and Ehrmann (1996) recently revisited this earlier work and discussed the role that technology could play in advancing these principles. Their new essay, "Implementing the Seven Principles: Technology as Lever," holds some of the keys that have helped us begin to design an effective faculty development process for our education partners:
- Good Practice Encourages Contact Between Student and Faculty
- Good Practice Uses Active Learning Techniques
- Good Practice Develops Reciprocity and Cooperation among Students
- Good Practice Respects Diverse Talents and Ways of Learning
Good Practice Encourages Contact Between Student and Faculty
(Or Instructor and Instructional Designer)
Frequent student-faculty contact in and out of class is a most important factor in student motivation and involvement.
For many of us, experiential knowledge of classroom teaching validated Ormrod's (1990) contention that prior knowledge is used to assimilate new information. We decided to follow that process in education known as "scaffolding": to begin where the student needs to begin, on familiar territory, and then slowly to build layer upon layer of experience and instruction until the student is comfortable stepping out into new territory. Because lack of face-to-face interaction with students online seems to be a great cause of the anxiety for facultymany still believe that online learning means the death of community in educationwe felt it wise first to model the techniques for developing community online before asking faculty members to build it. By working with faculty directly through discussion and hands-on computer activities, addressing fears, and working in familiar situations, we are able to move quickly into the process of education, rather than what we considered to be simple system trainingto go beyond "tool" presentation into exploring the pedagogical issues involved in creating online learning environments.
In order to retain contact with faculty after the seminar, we augment our workshops with phone and e-mail contact. Often faculty members who raised no specific questions during the workshops contacted us via e-mail as their courses progressed. We were reminded of the anecdotal research on the quiet student in the traditional classroom, who suddenly becomes liberated in the anonymous, reflective environment of the online classroom.
Good Practice Uses Active Learning Techniques
Learning is not a spectator sport. . . [Students] must talk about what they are learning, write reflectively about it, relate it to past experiences, and apply it to their daily lives.
After our own experience of listening to a painfully long demonstration on one course delivery systemat the end of which we could remember nothingwe realized that sustained learning, especially when it must utilize technology, must go beyond theory to encompass hands-on application.
Only by allowing instructors to begin the work of developing a course could we assist them in becoming self-learners and in gaining insights that would direct their later progress in online teaching. Faculty members would experiment with different Internet and education technology tools and provide themselves with their own how-to models for pedagogically effective course design, which included ways to build community and to address multiple learning styles. For example, one instructor and I collaborated on a "template" for the first unit of his course that gave his students necessary objectives and means for self-assessment, access to instructional multimedia, hypertext links to content-related sites on the WWW, and models of acceptable asynchronous discussion responses. He then used this template to construct the rest of his course units.
Good Practice Develops Reciprocity and Cooperation among Students (and Instructors)
Sharing ones ideas and responding to others improves thinking and deepens understanding.
Just as more and more educators have begun to look beyond the instructor-centered classroom and its reliance upon lecture and passive note-taking, so have we. Originally, our faculty development workshops relied mainly upon system presentation and lecture. But then we began to question the effectiveness of a technique that appeared to constitute training more than education, given what we had observed among instructors who were given opportunities to form learning cohorts within our workshops. Since our "students" are instructors themselves, it only made sense to create opportunities for instructors to instruct each other, to engage in small group discussion, collaborations, and presentations on specific technology tools and pedagogical practices in online education. More often than not, these faculty members gave us, as well as their peers, new ideas on the issues and possibilities in online learningideas ranging from the creation of an archive of "published" student papers, complete with bios and pictures, to the visual illustration of how choices among multi-tiered questions and groups of single-tiered questions affect learning.
Good Practice Respects Diverse Talents and Ways of Learning
Students need opportunities to show their talents and learn in ways that work for them. Then they can be pushed to learn in new ways that do not come so easily.
The ultimate goal for our faculty development program is to give instructors the knowledge and skills they need autonomously to create, modify, maintain, and teach online courses that meet criteria for effective instruction. This goal could not be reached through simple training on a software system. We also needed to accommodate as many learning styles as possible and push instructors toward self-discovery and the creativity that follows once basic skills are mastered. We created, besides our seminars, print materials and self-paced, online courses. Interestingly enough, we have found our print materials to be in more demand than our online materials (several faculty members have requested our handbooks for use in their classrooms as texts), suggesting to us that our original impetus to work with faculty first through familiar means was correct.
The process of our own education follows that of our students. As we continue to experiment with and research the instructional possibilities of the online environment and education technology, we continue to push forward. Presently, we are developing a two-week online addendum course for our seminars in which we continue to work with small cohorts of online instructors. Not only will we interact with our instructors, but we will also provide them with a way to learn the ins and outs of online instruction. Instructors will experience asynchronous and synchronous communication, time and task management, online peer collaboration and assessment, and the benefits of instructional multi-media. This, we believe, will bring our faculty development program full circle and help us to meet the challenges all distance instructors must face.
Chickering, A. & Ehrmann, S. (1996, October). Implementing the seven principles: Technology as lever. The AAHE Bulletin. Retrieved from the World Wide Web January 15, 2000 at http://www.aahe.org/Bulletin/Implementing the Seven Principles.htm
Ormrod, J. (1990). Human learning principles, theories, and educational applications. Columbus, OH: Merrill.hidden object gamesshooter gamesmarble popper gamestime management gamesdownloadable pc gameshidden objects games