This is the third in a series of guest blogs on innovative developments in online learning in Ontario post-secondary institutions. (The first was examples of hybrid learning and the second was examples of virtual worlds. simulations and mobile apps.)
In this post, Judith Tobin of Contact North| Contact Nord focuses on examples of faculty and professional development. Here is her guest post:
In my third guest blog based on the Pockets of Innovation Series from Contact North, Ontario’s distance learning and training network, I am focusing on the professional development and training opportunities offered by some Ontario colleges to prepare their faculty to take advantage of online and hybrid learning.
Georgian College in Barrie provides two programs with the students and their learning at the core of the instructional design. Following some mandatory online training prior to attending the Designing for Online Learning Series, faculty then meet and discuss learning theories, online course design principles, and online learning tools, supplemented with some hands-on experience. The subsequent program, Online Course Development Workshop, offers online modules and personal support as the faculty work through the tools and structures for developing one of their courses for online delivery. Faculty were initially disappointed that the first program did not teach them all they needed to know about technological tools but have come to appreciate the emphasis on learning and theory. The course development workshop incorporates discussion groups so that faculty can form communities to support each other during and after the course.
At Niagara College in Welland and Niagara-on-the-Lake, Hybrid Course Development is offered as a four credit Continuing Education course. The course is taught in hybrid mode so that the faculty have the same experience as their students in adapting to and benefitting from hybrid learning. The faculty learn about the technological tools by using them and applying them to their course development. The goal is to have the faculty appreciate and be able to exploit the variety and potential effectiveness of technologically-based alternatives to lectures.
Mohawk College of Applied Arts and Technology in Hamilton is working to position itself as a blended learning institution, using eLearn@Mohawk. Each course is required to post information, course, and assignment information, resources, discussion boards, and the grade book – all of which is facilitated by tools created by the Centre for Teaching and Learning. To support sustainability, paperless assignments and online communication and collaborative learning are to be integrated. Blended learning with core and supplemental materials online and a reduction in face-to-face class time is the third step. An intensive blended learning course has been developed so that faculty can become familiar with the pedagogy and the technological tools of blended learning. To engage the faculty, the course begins by looking at what they like least about teaching the course they are re-designing and then suggesting how blended learning can address that as well as provide effective teaching and learning.
Faculty Cyber Connections
Six colleges in eastern Ontario – Algonquin, Durham, Fleming, La Cité collégiale, Loyalist, and St. Lawrence – have established Faculty Cyber Connections so that faculty can collaborate online with their colleagues. To support faculty development, nine online modules are offered. Sir Stanford Fleming College in Peterborough had developed the module on Classroom Management, which features videos, discussion boards, readings, and other activities. The course instructor also models classroom management principles in her facilitation of the discussion board, providing useful models for the faculty.
Humber Institute of Teaching and Advanced Learning
The Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL) at the Humber Institute of Teaching and Advanced Learning has set up an eLearning Roadshow during which displays and demonstrations are set up in the high traffic areas of the different Schools or departments at Humber. Bringing the technology to the faculty, CTL highlights wikis, podcasts, white boards, e-portfolios, and all manner of other tools available for online teaching and learning. Stressing the student success factor and student demand for flexibility, the Roadshow attracts faculty who are unfamiliar with technology and online pedagogy and starts the conversation about new ways of teaching.
Strengths and challenges
Each of these initiatives builds from the pedagogy, new ways of thinking about and facilitating teaching and learning, to the technology and its capabilities. This is both the strength and the greatest challenge of faculty training and development. Starting from the pedagogy places learning effectiveness and outcomes at the centre of the thinking and keeps the student as the focus. However, many of the faculty would prefer to focus on the technologies. The challenge is to blend these two approaches, providing an understanding of how online pedagogy and tools need to work together for enhanced learning.
Keeping faculty committed to course development provides other challenges as well. Despite release time, it is often difficult to keep faculty motivated throughout the often lengthy and complex process of re-thinking and re-structuring a course they have taught for years. Concerns about work load are common as faculty are not prepared to deal with the new demands of online teaching and communication, especially with such tasks as monitoring discussion boards. Institutions, in some cases, are working to develop better understanding of the demands for faculty training, support, release time, and work load implications for online or hybrid learning. Change is never an easy process. Faculty training, development, and ongoing support are essential components to the integration of online learning and teaching in any institution.
In the face of these opportunities and challenges, the college staff who contributed to the Pockets of Innovation on faculty training and development all expressed their willingness to share their experiences with other colleagues and to learn from each other.