You’ll Get the Keys When You Pass Your Driver’s Test!
We have quite the quandary here. Just as at most institutions, use of the learning management system has become integral to our delivery of instruction, regardless of modality. This means that all faculty must be trained in using the tools provided in the LMS regardless of when they are hired. For planned hires, this is part of our standard on-boarding process for full-time and adjunct faculty. The problems arise when new faculty are hired at the last minute. We all want the problem of needing to add course sections, which drives the need for additional faculty, but entrusting untrained faculty with keys to the LMS can provide a negative student experience.
We have implemented several remedies to address the problem but each comes with its own set of issues:
- Our staff use a “drop everything and train” approach: This is very effective with faculty who have a higher aptitude, but novice users and beginning faculty usually are already overwhelmed with all of the other institutional requirements to learn the LMS a few days before their course starts. They also have little opportunity for reinforcement. Faculty living out of area are also not helped by this model.
- We provide online resources: These are designed as a reinforcement and are helpful to out of area faculty but we generally find that a faculty member who needs extra help delivering content online also needs help consuming content online.
- We provide “almost-in-time” support: Whereas just-in-time supply has the needed resource there when it is needed, we often find ourselves being asked a question after the faculty member needed the skill. We are given the opportunity to provide training after grades have been improperly entered, test results have been deleted or last year’s syllabus [inadvertently] published. None of these things aid in student learning or promote student confidence in the faculty member, the technology or the institution.
Do you have any suggestions for us to modify our last-minute faculty development to better prepare late hires to wield the tools of technology?
Flabbergasted By Last-Minute Faculty
We feel your pain! Yes, it is a great thing to add course sections to better serve students, but doing so through eleventh-hour adjunct contracts is fraught with logistical challenges. Kudos to you for keeping the student learning experience at the forefront of your concerns!
You asked specifically about LMS training for these last-minute faculty hires, but we would be remiss if we didn’t take a moment to comment on the relationship between LMS training and faculty preparation for teaching online. While all online faculty using a learning management system must certainly be skillful in using these tools, there is so much more to online teaching than mere LMS use as we are sure you know. At a minimum, an effective online faculty development program should address course/instructional design, online teaching practices/pedagogy, and institution-specific logistical protocols in addition to technology skills (including, but not limited to, LMS use). Of course, how such online faculty preparation is carried out will be influenced to a great degree by one’s institutional context. [Readers: You might wish to take a look at the Faculty Development Models section of TOPkit for much more on this topic.]
While you might find them wanting, your existing approaches for addressing the LMS needs of late-hired faculty are commendable and certainly understandable. Following are a few additional ideas to consider. However, as with the online faculty development models mentioned above, the feasibility of these LMS training options will be influenced by any number of institutional factors, especially resources.
Many academic programs try to cultivate a relationship with experts who can serve as adjuncts with short notice. If this is the case at your institution, you might work with your academic points-of-contact to pre-prepare such on-again/off-again adjuncts for using the LMS. This would ensure that these adjunct faculty are already ready to go once they are needed and get a contract. One issue here is how you conduct your LMS training. That is, are your LMS trainings (whether online or face-to-face) restricted to current employees of your institution?
Depending upon the LMS adopted by your institution, there might be a third-party “certification” for faculty use of the LMS. If so, you might choose to recognize (i.e., give credit for) this certification at your institution. This could be of particular value if the sponsoring organization is already known within your institution’s community of potential adjuncts. (As you know, many adjuncts teach for multiple institutions.)
Building upon your “almost just-in-time” experiences, perhaps you might create a semesterly calendar of LMS milestones and send out a message to all LMS-using faculty prior to the expected need. The lead time needed for each milestone might vary, but sending function-specific “how to” messages shortly before they are needed might just become a welcome communication.
We hope these options are either useful as is or that they lead you toward other ideas.
What do others think? Can you relate to the need “Flabbergasted” raised? Do you have additional suggestions?
Do please reply in this forum and share your thoughts.
Best wishes until next month!