Best Practices for Online Training and Support for Online Instructors

Best Practices for Online Training and Support for Online Instructors

Beatrice Adera, Michelle Fisher
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6322-8.ch018
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The educational landscape in the past decade has seen exponential growth in online education with online enrollments in many graduate programs outpacing traditional enrollments. This rapid expansion has been attributed to increased student demand, declining budgets, recruitment and retention efforts. A study conducted by Babson College's Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship reported that approximately 33.5% of college students completed at least one online course before graduation. The authors also reported that 70.8% of Chief Academic Officers (CAOs) reported that expansion of online course offerings was critical to the long-term strategic plan for their universities. Despite the growth in online enrollment, many institutions find online course development to be a costly, labor-intensive process. This chapter provides an overview of the different components of a quality online course and examines best practices for training and supporting online instructors through the course development and delivery process.
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The shift towards online instruction is a trend that many universities have adopted mainly due to student demand, declining budgets and efforts to ensure recruitment and retention of a diverse student body. Nationally, approximately 7.1 million students (roughly 33.5% of students) report having completed at least one online course before they graduate from college (van-Rooij, & Zirkle, 2016). Despite the documented growth in online learning over the past decade, many universities discover that the systematic development of online education can be an expensive and work intensive process (Herman, 2013). Equally important, some universities reported that faculty confidence in online learning is down and in some instances faculty were resistant to designing and teaching online courses (Allen, Seaman, Poulin, & Straut, 2016; Frass & Washington, 2017; Herman, 2013).

Faculty who are new to online learning will require training in online pedagogy and best practices and depending on their current technical skills and experience with the LMS, some faculty may require technical training. Many universities utilize a variety of group training approaches either online, hybrid, or face-to-face to prepare faculty to teach online. Online or internet based learning is often offered using both asynchronous and synchronous modes of instruction. Asynchronous mode comprises of individual based instruction where students complete work independently at their own pace within a stipulated timeline as set by instructor. Synchronous mode of group instruction comprises of instruction where everyone is online at the same time regardless of their location. Group training is often used by a variety of universities given that is an efficient way to train many online faculty at one time. The challenge with this approach is that faculty can easily get overwhelmed during the group training given that too much information is presented all at once. Another challenge with this approach is that faculty come to these programs with different technical backgrounds, have different teaching styles, different types of courses, and often heavy teaching workloads. Recruitment efforts should center on faculty who are open to thinking differently about teaching and learning, course design and instruction and can deliver instruction or are open to learn best practices for online delivery. In addition, faculty must possess the willingness to learn how to navigate a variety of digital tools and other technology skills (Fish & Wickersham, 2009).

Studies have shown that the most effective strategies in generating faculty trust and buy in are one-on-one consultations, institutional incentives, and faculty showcasing and endorsement. Some institutions provide individual consultation and just-in-time training opportunities for faculty engaged in online course development. This form of training is often conducted months before the course development commences and is often forgotten when it is time to develop the course. In a national survey of institutions of higher education, Liu and Dempsey (2017) reported that 83% of the respondents favored one-on-one consultation to prepare for online teaching.

Herman (2013) examined the different forms of institutional incentives offered to faculty for designing an online course, teaching and on-line course, completion a faculty development that is less than and in some cases more than 8 hours. The author highlighted recognition in tenure and promotion, financial remuneration in the form of stipends or honorarium, course releases, technology awards and retention of intellectual property as some of the main incentives used by many universities. Institutions with the goal of increasing online instruction must invest additional resources on faculty development for online instruction. There is need to explore the use of a balanced approach that takes advantage of group training for information that is applicable to all online faculty combined with individual consultation and training during the course development process is ideal where possible. This chapter provides an overview of the different steps for developing a quality online course based on practices at a university. The different components of a quality online course will be examined followed by a discussion of best practices for training and supporting online instructors throughout the course development and delivery process.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Asynchronous: Asynchronous course elements do not require students to login at the same time as each other. They provide flexibility to students and faculty to participate at the time that works best for each person.

Face-to-Face Instruction: Face-to-face instruction refers to instruction that happens in a physical classroom.

Online Training: Online training is one method of distance learning. Online training is becoming more and more common in the corporate setting because of the flexible nature of online training.

Learning Management Systems: Learning management systems are web-based tools that are used in higher education, K12, and corporate settings to deliver content in a variety of formats to learners. Most learning management systems have tools for content, discussion, assessment, and grading.

Web 2.0 Tools: Web 2.0 tools are tools that allow for interaction, creation, or collaboration online. Web 2.0 is a broad term used to describe the change in web pages from static pages you viewed in a somewhat passive manner to pages that allowed you to interact with content, create content, and/or collaborate online.

Universal Design: Universal design is a term that describes designing to meet everyone’s needs. A popular and frequently used example of universal design is curb cuts”. Curb cuts are the places in sidewalks (driveways and intersections) where the sidewalk is angled to meet the street. These curb cuts were originally designed to make sidewalks more accessible to people using wheelchairs but they also help people pushing strollers, children riding bicycles, people dragging luggage or wheeled backpacks, and runners. Another example from everyday live is levered door handles. These handles are helpful to people with limited mobility and range of motion but they also are helpful for people who have their hands full with books, groceries, or are carrying small children. In learning, universally designed instruction is designed with all students in mind. Faculty may caption video for deaf or hard of hearing students but those captions help second language learners and students who are stronger visual learners as well.

Synchronous: Synchronous class activities are the activities that require students and faculty to login at a specific time and date. These activities typically make use of a web conferencing tools. There are many tools available, some are free some require a paid account. Google Hangouts and Zoom both have free options available. There are some limits with the free rooms. Adobe Connect, Blackboard Collaborate, and Zoom all have paid options available. Most of these tools allow two-way webcam video, two-way audio, file sharing, text chat, polling, white board sharing, and group break-out sessions.

Distance Education: Distance Education is a general term that refers to education conducted outside of the classroom. The term distance education typically refers to courses delivered online. Distance Education can also refer to courses delivered via Web-conference technology either classroom to classroom or instructor to individual student.

Hybrid Courses: Hybrid courses are courses that utilize both face-to-face instruction and some version on online learning. There are many variations in this format. In some cases, instructors replace one day in the classroom with one day online, while others select specific learning modules to do online and in person. Flipped classes are a variation of the hybrid course format where instructors deliver content online for students to watch at home and use class time for active learning.

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