A Step-by-Step Guide to ‘Untethered’ Faculty Development

column | Digital Learning

A Step-by-Step Guide to ‘Untethered’ Faculty Development

By Michelle Pacansky-Brock (Columnist) and Jill Leafstedt     Oct 6, 2016

A Step-by-Step Guide to ‘Untethered’ Faculty Development

Faculty development in higher education looks the same today as it did 30 years ago: educators attend face-to-face workshops and consultations in an attempt to find new strategies and ideas for improving learning. But the way faculty teach is drastically different from what it was even five years ago. It’s now the norm for them to lead face-to-face, blended and online classes.

Faculty development is in dire need of transformation to reflect the realities of teaching in digital, online environments. Faculty developers and centers for teaching and learning can play a huge role in helping educators develop digital literacy skills. By giving faculty the right tools and inspiration to teach in online environments, universities will be better equipped to support the diverse needs of college and university students, while preparing them for success in a networked world.

To see the unexpected array of opportunities that digital learning provides, faculty must have opportunities to immerse themselves in rich, connected, online environments.

Untethering Faculty Development

So how do colleges and universities help faculty build the knowledge to teach in online environments? “Untethered” faculty development models will need to take the place of the traditional boutique model of faculty development.

Untethered development is learner-centered, grounded in the use of online networks to share practices, and does not require faculty to be on campus to learn. It places value on sharing and the relational ties between faculty, as opposed to the number of people in a room at a particular time.

The goal of faculty development is to provide learning opportunities for faculty that result in the continued growth and development of one’s teaching. Untethering faculty development requires one to design these experiences so faculty are not required to be physically present in a specific place or time to learn. This involves providing faculty development opportunities that include multiple points of access and multiple modes of interaction.

Tips for Untethering Workshops

Below are the strategies we are using to provide untethered faculty development at California State University, Channel Islands (CI).

  • Send an invitation via email that contains a link to an online resource site with relevant materials, videos, background reading, etc.
  • Provide an option to participate remotely using video conferencing.
  • Engage remote attendees in the dialogue. Ask for their input and feedback throughout the session.
  • Record the session to accommodate those who do not make it due to last minute schedule conflicts.
  • Curate archives online to support faculty who hear about an event from a peer and want to learn more.
  • Create an online, collaborative agenda and encourage participants to add to it prior to the session.
  • Assure all materials referenced during a session may be accessed online and are easy to find.
  • Use an online tool to capture feedback from all participants
  • Send a follow up email with a link to the resource site, the posted materials, and the video archive of the session to participants and those that are interested but unable to attend.
  • Design facilitated online, asynchronous courses for faculty that model effective course design and facilitation.

Tips for Ongoing Untethering Efforts

Often faculty development takes place through ongoing programs. Creating an untethered experience for these programs is a little different from untethering a one-time workshop. At CI we use the following strategies for ongoing programs.

  • Curate the archives of individual sessions into a self-paced learning resource.
  • Grow a resource page into a more robust site as efforts develop.
  • Start a blog and invite faculty to write posts about their teaching practices and reflections.
  • Develop online toolkits to support faculty with a particular tool.
  • Publicly share related links, photos and videos on social media and encourage faculty to subscribe.

At CSU Channel Islands, the ideas shared above have enabled more faculty to participate in our faculty development offerings and have fostered a greater diffusion of ideas across our campus and beyond.

Michelle Pacansky-Brock (@brocansky) is a Teaching and Learning Innovations Specialist and Jill Leafstedt (@JLeafstedt) is Executive Director of Teaching and Learning Innovations and Senior Academic Technology Officer at California State University, Channel Islands.

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