Faculty Development in Digital Spaces: Designing and Implementing Innovative Modular Online Programming

Faculty Development in Digital Spaces: Designing and Implementing Innovative Modular Online Programming

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8476-6.ch003
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The 21st-century faculty member is faced with numerous challenging tasks. Teaching must be current and highly engaging. To ensure the highest quality faculty development focused on digital teaching and learning, higher education academic institutions need to identify innovative new ways to address these challenges, often through digital methods and deliveries. Too often, however, faculty are pressured with diminished time and resources. That is, teaching, scholarship, and service dominate faculty members' schedules and time for faculty development is limited. To confront this serious issue, higher education academic institutions should develop applicable and digitally enabled faculty development programs designed in online, modular environments. This chapter provides an overview and analysis of the concept, design, and implementation of the DEEP (Developing Excellence in Eastern's Professors) online, modular faculty development system as a model for digital teaching and learning.
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As Cortez (2017) discussed, digital technologies now available to higher education academic institutions are helping leaders committed to enhancing teaching and learning change how they design, deliver, shape, and share educational models. The University Innovation Alliance (UIA) is a consortium of research institutions in the United States focused on using innovative, data-driven, and technologically sophisticated approaches to increase student success and graduation rates. UIA is harnessing powerful digital technologies to enhance the ways information is gathered and how their educational models are designed. In addition, Burning Glass Technologies is shaping emerging educational models whereby digital technologies are leveraged to enhance not only the student educational experience but also graduate placement rates and data-informed academic success approaches. New America’s (2018) report on higher education, however, finds that “higher education is not fine the way it is,” prompting a great deal of in-depth discussion and planning among higher education faculty and administrators. Faculty development researchers have begun examining ways to engage faculty amid rapid changes in higher education (Sweet, Carpenter, & Blythe, 2017). As the landscape of higher education shifts, faculty developers will continue to look for innovative ways to design and deliver programs and opportunities.

Faculty development comes with a variety of challenges in itself. The new challenge of taking faculty development content and programming opportunities to the faculty using digital technology, though, is an area in need of further exploration. While digital technology continues to serve as a valuable topic for faculty developers, more information is needed on processes for utilizing it to enhance distribution of content, especially as it enhances teaching and learning.

Higher education faculty members in the 21st century are being asked to understand, design, and implement digital technologies to enhance their teaching and student learning across academic disciplines. These demands and new expectations to pursue academic excellence in teaching and learning, often while also maintaining ambitious scholarly agendas and meaningful service, necessitate participation in faculty development. These opportunities focus on enhancements of areas that advance faculty success such as effectiveness in teaching, motivation, knowledge, and higher-education skills.

As Arreola (2007) argued, “faculty evaluation programs and professional enrichment programs should work hand-in-hand. If some aspect of faculty performance is to be evaluated, then there should exist resources or opportunities that enable faculty to gain or enhance their skills necessary for that performance” (pp. xxi-xxii). Higher education institutions around the world offer forms of faculty development on their campuses. While many initiatives engage faculty members in current pedagogical practices through faculty development, researchers stand to learn a great deal as future iterations of these programming efforts are designed. Furthermore, Baker, Pifer, and Lunsford (2016) articulated faculty challenges in professional development across rank, from Assistant Professor to Professor. The authors identify service obligations, tenure expectations, leadership demands, and refreshing teaching skills as challenges within the faculty ranks in teaching-focused liberal arts colleges. Moving forward, these same challenges (and opportunities) will exist across institutions of varying sizes and levels. If faculty development is to prepare faculty for teaching, extend knowledge, and expand teaching behaviors, how might initiatives be designed to facilitate these pedagogical priorities?

This chapter explores emerging approaches for leveraging digital tools and platforms to design new faculty development opportunities through an examination of the DEEP (Developing Excellence in Eastern’s Professors) online, modular system. The DEEP system is designed as a fully digital environment and is an innovation of importance and scalable across a variety of academic institutions where faculty development, especially focused on digital teaching and learning, is employed and in those where distributed access is needed, warranted, or desired.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Level: A module designed to focus on learning content (Learner), practicing the teaching of content (practitioner), sharing and teaching content to colleagues and peers through practice in the classroom (advocate), and designing and delivering teaching and learning content through scholarship of teaching and learning (scholar).

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: The examination or study of teaching and learning, student success, faculty or student engagement through the classroom.

Digital Pedagogy: The use of digital technology to enhance teaching and learning.

Modular: Driven by modules—or compact lessons—to allow faculty flexibility in planning and faculty development participation. In this chapter, modular content is offered by four Levels in the DEEP system.

Advocate: The third level in the DEEP system. Designed to provide structure for faculty to share teaching and learning skills, strategies, and concepts with colleagues as a form of social faculty development, including in digital forms and methods.

Faculty Development: The programming and enhancement efforts of faculty focused on pillars of academic excellence and areas of faculty success throughout the faculty lifecycle. Faculty development often includes areas of teaching, learning, scholarship or research, and professional service.

DEEP Course Mentor: A faculty member responsible for reviewing and evaluating faculty participant submissions to DEEP courses at each level. DEEP Course Mentors assess the extent to which faculty participants achieve faculty learning outcomes established for each course level and provide ongoing guidance and support in digital teaching and learning.

Online: Offered via the internet to allow for computer or portable device to connect to a network.

Practitioner: The second Level in the DEEP system. Designed to provide faculty participants with the opportunity to practice teaching and learning approaches. The Practitioner Level allows faculty to experiment with integrating a new or unfamiliar teaching strategy into the classroom (such as video in a flipped classroom or video editing project) using digital technology. Faculty participants are encouraged to retain and share samples of exercises within the Practitioner Level of the DEEP system.

DEEP: Developing Excellence in Eastern’s Professors, a fully online, modular, and scalable platform for faculty development designed by the Faculty Innovation Workgroup at Eastern Kentucky University.

Technologically Sophisticated: Enhanced by or through technology, including digital media or web platforms.

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