September/October 2002 // Faculty and Staff Development
Technological Applications in Faculty Development
by Jerome R. Kolbo and Casey C. Turnage
Note: This article was originally published in The Technology Source ( as: Jerome R. Kolbo and Casey C. Turnage "Technological Applications in Faculty Development" The Technology Source, September/October 2002. Available online at The article is reprinted here with permission of the publisher.

Colleges and universities have recently shown a strong interest in faculty development because their faculty members now face more pressure than ever before to change their teaching styles. The purpose of this paper is to provide examples of how information technology can support faculty development programs, particularly those programs designed to assist faculty members in the use of such technology to improve their instruction.

Contemporary faculty development programs use technologies such as e-mail, audio/video presentations, bulletin boards, chat rooms, and hyperlinks to enhance faculty performance both in traditional on-campus classrooms and in online courses (Cyrs, 1997). The applications of these technologies span a broad spectrum of course structures and reflect innovative responses to current challenges in higher education. However, we are still far from fully realizing technology's potential for improving and enhancing teaching and learning.

Faculty Development Programs

Faculty development encompasses a broad range of programs and activities designed to support teaching and learning at all levels (undergraduate, graduate, doctoral) and in all contexts in which instruction occurs. These may range from a focus on an individual faculty member improving his/her instructional skills to advocacy for campus-wide changes in policies that determine faculty roles and rewards.

Faculty development programs may include, but are not limited to, general or pre-service orientations; workshops and in-service training; seminars or forums; consultations; handbooks, newsletters, or training letters; short courses or weekend institutes; and mentoring initiatives. These programs also may deliver their content in a variety of forms, such as written documents, face-to-face contact with individuals or small groups, video conferencing, or other electronic presentations.

Challenges in Faculty Development

Faculty development programs are demonstrating an increased interest in utilizing electronic technologies, in part because of faculty members' need to be proficient with the technologies necessary to teach large numbers of students with varying levels of preparation and learning styles. Universities continue to hire new tenure-track and part-time faculty with little or no educational or professional experience in teaching while placing higher expectations on their teaching performance; the use of technology has become a standard requisite in these expectations. Each faculty member faces changing instructional needs in an ever-changing technological environment, one in which technologies are transforming so quickly that many faculty members do not have time to learn them before the next innovation occurs (Fink, 2002).

It is unclear whether existing faculty development programs address these challenges. According to Murray (1999), many faculty development programs in community colleges lack cohesiveness and are better characterized as a mix of loosely connected services. While it is unclear whether or not this is true for all institutions, it has been our experience that the effectiveness of these programs is difficult to assess. In our case, only a small number of faculty usually participate, those who attend are often those least in need of such services, and few if any measures are in place for long-term improvement.

Motivation, or the lack thereof, appears to play a significant role in these findings. Some faculty members may fear publicly acknowledging their need for specific training or development. Some may cling to the misconception that faculty development is only for "others"—for those who are new to academe, or for those who are taking on new positions or responsibilities.

With respect to attendance and participation, our experience has also shown that those for whom the services would be of greatest benefit often have very demanding schedules that prohibit them from attending and participating in faculty development offerings. Others, particularly the increasing number of part-time faculty replacements and adjunct professors on our campus, hold other full-time jobs and cannot leave or miss work to attend programs during regular daytime hours.

This issue of time also relates to scheduling difficulties, particularly in terms of offering programs and services at a time that seems most appropriate for faculty members' calendars or career paths. For some, faculty development programs that relate to the development of online or other distance courses and the use of various instructional technologies are of primary interest. Others' interests may focus more on research and external funding. With limited personal time available and individualized emphasis in specific areas, faculty are likely to attend only those meetings that are most relevant to their current or primary job responsibilities.

Opportunities Through Technology

Internet-based technologies offer a number of options in confronting these and many other challenges. These options, we believe, fall into one of five general categories: coordination and evaluation of existing programs and activities; delivery and dissemination of content material; providing new programs and activities to a broader audience; moving from teacher-centered to learner-centered instruction; and transforming the existing culture of faculty development.

Coordination and Evaluation of Existing Programs and Activities

Often, in the past, workshops that faculty and staff developed and offered were only available within their respective academic departments, resulting in smaller numbers of participants and numerous duplicate offerings among a campus's many departments. At the University of Southern Mississippi, we have been able to streamline and coordinate these faculty development initiatives through electronic notification, registration, and the construction of a Web site that announces and provides access to all available programs and activities offered on campus during each academic semester.

It has been difficult to accurately and consistently determine who has participated in which workshops or how effective our programs have been in fostering changes in faculty members' performance. However, the tracking features in current course management software provide opportunities to assess both participation and the impact of faculty development programs and activities. Faculty development specialists at the University of Southern Mississippi, for example, are able to track the amount of time spent, number of pages visited, amount of participation in activities, and completion of activities in online workshops (e.g., WebCT 101, WebCT 102, and WebCT 203) designed to assist faculty in developing their own online courses. Faculty development specialists receive immediate feedback though e-mail, bulletin board postings, and discussion in the chat rooms as to what was most and least helpful, and what to change in future offerings of the workshops. Such short-term feedback, moreover, may best be supplemented by assessments over the longer term. For example, faculty members could compare their performance on student or peer evaluations before and after completing a series of faculty development modules on teaching and learning. Similarly, faculty development personnel could compare the number of grant submissions and awards of external funding between those who complete modules on grant writing and those who do not participate in this program. In each case, it is relatively easy to assess success and provide feedback to those who participate in these faculty development activities and those who do not.

Delivery and Dissemination of Content Material

As with most online courses, another advantage in utilizing Internet-based technologies is the ability to offer programs and activities at any time and any place. Programs and activities are available to a more diverse range of instructors (graduate assistants, adjuncts, part-time faculty, junior and senior level faculty), covering a broad array of topics, and addressing different teaching and learning styles. As with students, not all faculty and staff have the same needs or learning styles at a given point in time.

The content that teachers traditionally disseminate in printed documents, small group workshops, or face-to-face classes is not always immediately available or accessible to all class members. Newly developed technologies, though, allow faculty members to easily obtain necessary faculty development information online. For example, at some institutions, pre-service or orientation on faculty roles and responsibilities is available online for faculty/instructional staff (e.g., at UNC-Wilmington) and graduate teaching assistants (e.g., at the University of Minnesota). Faculty members can also access demonstrations and guides for syllabi and course development (e.g., at the University of Minnesota), online course evaluation (e.g., at the University of Oregon), portfolio development (e.g., at the Iowa State University), using technology (e.g., at the University of Oregon), and FAQs (e.g., at the Pennsylvania State University).

Providing New Programs and Activities to a Broader Audience

Online faculty development programs are not limited to enhancing instructors' skills in teaching and learning. For example, the University of Southern Mississippi converted a face-to-face presentation on grant writing and grant submission into an electronic medium. The University of Kansas Center for Teaching Excellence has developed a Web site for students that faculty members can link to in their syllabi.

Moving from Teacher-Centered to Learner-Centered Teaching

Internet-based technologies provide an additional opportunity to shift toward more learner-centered teaching. Each of the examples that we have provided so far are essentially static pages of electronic text and graphics, with the content and learning opportunity of each site predetermined by the faculty development professional. While these are useful resources, they provide little opportunity for the learner (in this case, the faculty member) to engage in self-directed learning while interacting with the technology itself.

The Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, for example, offers an online syllabus guide that provides faculty members a workspace for constructing teaching plans and a syllabus while also reflecting on their teaching philosophy. Similarly, the Connecticut Distance Learning Consortium provides faculty members opportunities to explore the capabilities of several course management system toolkits, and St. Petersburg College provides students an opportunity to try out some of the tools of online learning before they take a course.

MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching) is an online repository that provides another opportunity for faculty members to engage in self-directed learning. Merlot offers free access to a variety of instructional resources, including peer-reviewed learning materials that can be incorporated into courses. Faculty members can review, adapt, modify, and test these materials for their own instructional or learning purposes. The value of this environment is not only that it encourages faculty to examine and evaluate the content and technology that they will use with their students, but that it also allows faculty to see additional models of learner-centered, technology-enhanced teaching.

Transforming the Existing Culture

In today's environment, universities committed to encouraging innovative teaching practices are far more likely to attract and keep students, faculty, and staff. Internet-based technologies can affect the expectations of current and even prospective students and employees before they ever arrive on campus. For instance, a university can create Web sites that display the successes of those that complete faculty development programs; such sites can also allow faculty to share their products (see, for example, the Maryland Faculty Online website) or publicize teaching awards (see, for example, the East Carolina University College of Arts and Sciences website) or other scholarly recognition.

The use of these technologies to support faculty development activities exposes faculty members to features that they can use in the classroom. If they have an opportunity to use and interact with the various applications, faculty members are far more likely to actually incorporate them in their teaching. Those who lead faculty development efforts should demonstrate, and expect faculty members to acquire, the basic skills necessary to use the technology as well as a basic knowledge of the available resources and tools.

The Future of Faculty Development

To remain at the forefront of higher education, faculty development initiatives need to broaden their focus, utilize more diverse methods and formats, focus on providing more learner-centered instruction, and consider the positive cultural impact that electronic technologies make possible. We have presented our conceptualization of using technology, which stems from our experience as our own faculty development initiatives have evolved. Through such initiatives, we believe that we are better able to attract faculty, retain them, and keep them maximally engaged in the provision of quality education throughout their careers. The students, of course, are the ultimate beneficiaries of these efforts. We are committed to enhancing academic excellence through faculty development, and we encourage others to explore, expand, and share their applications of technology in an effort to improve faculty development initiatives for everyone.

[Editor's note: This paper is modified from a presentation at the 2001 Stop Surfing-Start Teaching National Conference in Myrtle Beach, SC.]


Cyrs, T. E. (1997). Teaching and learning at a distance: What it takes to effectively design, deliver, and evaluate. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Fink, M. L. (2002). Faculty on the move: Rethinking faculty support services. Syllabus, 15(7), 27-29.

Murray, J. (1999). Faculty development in a national sample of community colleges. Community College Review, 27(3), 47-65.

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