by John Raible
Adult learners tend to prefer to be in control of their own learning, so it is very important to include them in the analysis, design, implementation, and evaluation process of the faculty development program, along with other stakeholders.
Analyze and Design
Transitioning from the face-to-face environment to a blended or fully online environment requires a paradigm shift for faculty. Often, this shift occurs continuously; over time becoming integrated in a faculty academic routine through the use of faculty development programs (Willems, 2015).
To ensure the effectiveness of faculty development programs, analyzing the needs of learners has been identified as critical to the design process (see Dick, Carey, & Carey, 2005).This analysis can provide invaluable insight in various areas such as:
- Prior knowledge
- Attitudes toward the topic
- Ability levels
- Learning preferences
- Attitude toward the organization providing professional development
- Group characteristics.
Conducting a learner analysis involves faculty participation and instills a sense of ownership in the curriculum design process. This can lead to shifting the attitude toward attending faculty development. The learner analysis process can be a daunting challenge with the sheer number, varied experiences, and different academic ranks of faculty on campus.
It is important to gather information in various ways from a diverse representation of faculty during the learner analysis. Institutional surveys can be an effective way to collect detailed information from a large group. Investigate if your institution has access to robust survey software such as Qualtrics. Free solutions, such as Google Forms or Survey Monkey, can be used instead. Adhere to policies regarding the mass distribution and research protocols. Institutional Review Board (IRB) permission from your institution may be required before distributing a survey.
Focus groups are also a valuable resource to design faculty development. Hiltz, Shea, and Kim (2010) state that, “Focus groups are especially well suited to uncovering and documenting the “why” behind opinions, and in obtaining much more depth and breadth of analysis from participants than are available from individual data collection methods” (p. 25). Several iterations of focus group meetings may be used to determine overall themes involving concepts such as perceptions about online teaching and knowledge about the technology being used at the institution. It is important to invite a mixture of academic disciplines, faculty ranks, and full or part time faculty for a well-rounded sample representative of the campus environment.
Collaborate with various faculty development stakeholders on campus. This includes any faculty advisory boards, faculty senate, or any organization that works directly with faculty. Invite individuals as “beta” testers once the faculty development program is complete. This method can yield unexpected benefits while improving professional relationships across campus.
Faculty can also be a valuable resource while the professional development program is underway. For instance, two people lead the IDL6543 faculty development program at UCF – one instructional designer and one faculty member. This faculty member, called the Online Learning Training Specialist, represents the faculty perspective about learning how to teach online. In short, they have the “street cred” and can relate to the faculty about their needs and concerns. A past specialist shared that having a fellow instructor facilitating “creates an environment of ease…knowing someone who has been through it and turned out okay is comforting!” It also can benefit the specialist; “I get to meet other faculty from across the university, which widens the possibilities for future collaborations and partnerships across campus.” It is advisable to ask for their feedback after each session.
Faculty are also invited to speak during the program. “Web vets” showcase their online courses and explain the design behind them, and the steps required to get there. Winners of the Chuck D. Dzuiban Award for Excellence in Online Teaching are also invited to speak once a year. Occasionally, online “newbies” who have only taught online a year or two visit the program attendees and relay their experiences. Including faculty in this way honors their experiences and encourages social connections as well.
While an initial learning analysis is a critical element of designing a faculty development program, mechanisms should be in place during and after each faculty development offering to
evaluate each individual iteration. The results of the iterative feedback from faculty will help guide when to conduct a curriculum redesign or development of a new faculty development experience.
Although acknowledging all stakeholders is key, making sure to include the faculty in each step of the way–analysis, design, implementation, and evaluation–reinforces their ownership of the learning process. It is important to be transparent in this process by sharing the results with faculty and providing avenues for comment. Remember, this can be a major paradigm shift for faculty, so becoming an active participant in the process can help ease the transition.
The TOPkit sample course has excellent examples of feedback collection. Feedback is collected at key points throughout the course, along with a cumulative survey at the conclusion. Over time, a valuable collection of data is accumulated for analysis.
Dick, W., Carey, L., & Carey, J. O. (2005). The systematic design of instruction. Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon.
Hiltz, S. R., Shea, P., & Kim, E. (2010). Using focus groups to study ALN faculty motivation. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 14 (1), 21-38.
Willems, C. (2015). The “Gourmet” sausage factory: Keeping it human. Journal of Learning Design, 8(1), 79-94.