How Colleges Can Support Faculty New to Teaching Online #DLNchat

Digital Learning

How Colleges Can Support Faculty New to Teaching Online #DLNchat

By Michael Sano     Jan 15, 2019

How Colleges Can Support Faculty New to Teaching Online #DLNchat

“Online teaching is the joy, fun, and magic of bringing teaching and learning into the online environment,” Karen Costa tweeted last Tuesday, January 8, kicking off the #DLNchat. Many may agree with Costa, but for faculty who have spent their academic careers teaching face-to-face, the shift to online instruction can be daunting. So last week, the #DLNchat community shared ideas about how to best support instructors making the transition to the online classroom.

It takes a village

#DLNchat-ters stressed that community is central to high quality online teaching. Faculty should utilize the support systems in place at their institution, formal or informal. Professor Paul Wilson said, “Faculty should have division support, advising support, infrastructure support, tech support available for online students.” He also recommended, “Use instructional designers to your advantage. With good design help students anticipate expectations so they avoid the scramble to discover what is required.”

Connie Johnson, CAO and provost at Colorado Technical University, agreed. “Not sure what I would do without our student advising team for support for our online students. Tech support, and how they interact with students is also important. But, academics needs to make certain that tech support has the information that they need. It's a village!” she shared. “Partnering with the librarians and library service team is essential. Knowing what resources are out there to support your students is a must,” added Nicole Messier.

Connect planning, training and ongoing support

#DLNchat-ters recommended involving faculty in planning before training even begins. “Helping faculty make the best use of tech starts with including faculty in the identification of learning outcomes and selection of the tools that support meeting them,” Nori Barajas-Murphy said. Christine Sax added, “Give guidance on which tech are best suited to achieve particular goals (e.g. want to increase student-student engagement, try these tools). Make it easy for faculty to choose—don't make them sort through lots of tools on their own.”

When training is implemented, make sure it’s meaningful, Emma Zone advised. “Understanding there is a difference between training to use the tech vs. integrating it into one's pedagogical practice. Development of how to optimally use online technology is ongoing,” she tweeted. Danielle Leek added, “Meet faculty where there are. Let’s move beyond offering only novice workshops and create supports for mid and advanced too!”

Enroll faculty as student

One method for preparing to teach online is to have professors to first play the role of student. Karine Joly shared: “Walking in the shoes of their students often makes instructors better—when it comes to technology best practices.” The method can also help support designing other facets of the learning experience. “Provide an opportunity for faculty to be online students so they can better empathize with their students,” tweeted Suzanne Healy.

If faculty are learning through an online student experience, make sure it can reflect positive experiences in online courses, too said Michelle Pacansky-Brock. “Yes, yes, yes—but students in an online course where they have a caring and engaged instructor. They need to feel the power that human connection in the formation of motivation and challenging oneself,” she shared.

Humanize with video and other methods

How can instructors create a human connection with their students? Video was the resounding answer from the #DLNchat community. Elli England said, “Be human. Create videos for instruction, announcements, quick check-ins. Then, let students create videos back—in their voice. Let them share their ideas in ways that promote creativity and collaboration.”

Those videos don’t have to be perfect, Pacansky-Brock told chatters. “Faculty need a safe place to experiment and understand the value of being real in online videos. Students are inspired through human connections; especially important for our underserved minority students,” she tweeted. Todd Conaway concurred. He said, “We want blinking eyes, kids crying in the background, and personal videos that show real people in real places.”

“If not video, even photos help!” Zone tweeted. There are other ways to bring in the human element. Costa advised, “Storytelling: this is the other main method I use to humanize my online courses. Tell stories.”

Scott Hamm takes a slightly different approach. “Create presence in a way that works with your own personal vibe. I'm an '80's geek so I integrate that in my training, teaching,” he shared. Troy Pinkney added, “I like to paint and draw so I also use these modalities in my classes sometimes with videos.” Tom Pantazes liked those approaches. “Each instructor has a slightly different teaching persona—one of my challenges as a designer is to try and bring that out in their online courses—that authenticity is important for students,” he said.

Create a culture based on connections

To create authentic connections between faculty and students, #DLNchat-ters also recommend being present and personalizing the experience for students. Wilson said, “Faculty can humanize the process through student engagement. Be there. Expect to interact and develop. Abandon the assumption of automated instruction online.” And Carrie Wandler advised, “Focus on connection. Faculty need to take a personal interest in lives, goals and experiences of students. Sharing this at the onset of a session gives faculty what they need to make the names on a roster meaningful.”

Faculty should model the behavior they want to be part of their class culture, #DLNchat-ters agreed. “Talk to your students about emotions (theirs and yours!) in an appropriate way,” recommended Costa. Brit Wattwood said, “Agree with modeling a humanized experience...and that includes not taking oneself too seriously. I encourage my students to freely use GIFs to add emphasis to their tweets...and in the process we all tend to have more fun.”

Value teaching and keep it fun

“Make it fun,” implored Costa and others. And remember, video and other forms of personalizing online teaching don’t have to be done perfectly or in a studio. Pacansky-Brock said, “My tip is to use your phone to record quick 1-2 minute videos on the go and load them directly to YouTube. Videos don't need to be time consuming. And the more ‘real’ they are, the more students connect with you.” Hamm shared his practice: “I make shorties in my truck on my drive home (I'm only 3 miles away) and I usually have on some 80's as intro or background. Bonus is students always tell me their faves, their parents, concert experiences, and connects us in a new way.”

Johnson reminded the community: “To support faculty experimentation, you have to allow for failure. This takes the pressure off and allows for a bit more creativity and fun in many instances.” And Pacansky-Brock touched on a common theme for #DLNchat. "Foster a culture that values good teaching... period. If teaching was a top priority, it would be embraced by all as an iterative process and modality would not even be part of the equation,” she said.

Got questions or ideas about supporting online faculty? Tweet our community with the hashtag #DLNchat! You can also RSVP for our next chat: How Will the Future of Work Influence the Future of Learning? on Tuesday, February 12 at 1pm PT/ 4pm ET. For more topics, check out our summaries of past chats. #DLNchat is co-hosted by the Online Learning Consortium, WCET, Tyton Partners and EDUCAUSE.

#DLNchat: How Will the Future of Work Influence the Future of Learning?
#DLNchat: How Will the Future of Work Influence the Future of Learning?
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