Faculty Professional Development in Creating Significant Teaching and Learning Experiences Online

Faculty Professional Development in Creating Significant Teaching and Learning Experiences Online

Yasemin Gülbahar (Ankara University, Turkey) and Müge Adnan (Mugla Sitki Kocman University, Turkey)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0115-3.ch004

Abstract

With faculty members and instructors struggling with the massive transformational challenges stemming from technological innovation, the establishment of a digital teaching-learning culture to ensure that university graduates are ready to join the 21st-century workforce is of the utmost importance. At this juncture, the key players are those who lead the learning experience, namely faculty members and instructors. Being an experienced faculty member and possessing advanced skills of using technology does not necessarily lead to an instructor becoming an effective e-instructor. This chapter, therefore, discusses the changing nature of digital teaching and learning from the perspective of faculty members, within the framework of certain required competencies and skills that every faculty member should possess. The chapter also includes a brief overview of the literature regarding the professional development of faculty members, synchronized with reflections and experiences from an online e-Tutor course.
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Introduction

Living in today’s digital age, we are immersed in technology that is exponentially growing and transforming our lives to an extent never previously imaginable. The technological and knowledge revolution along with the dynamic social and economic structure of this age has also altered the skills and qualifications required from individuals to survive in this “agile and volatile” landscape, as Bates (2015) referred to it. We need to encompass communications and social media skills in addition to traditional communication skills such as reading or speaking; thinking skills including critical thinking, problem-solving, originality and creativity; teamwork including collaborative working and knowledge sharing at a distance; the ability to learn independently; working ethically and responsibly; digital skills assisting individuals’ healthy inclusion in digital society; and knowledge management including how to find, evaluate, analyze, apply and disseminate information. It has also changed the profile of students, particularly within higher education. Higher education institutions now serve not only to full-time students that recently graduated from high school, but also to part-time mature learners often with their own family, job responsibilities and commitments.

This shift in the skills and qualifications of the digital age, as well as the changing profile of learners, requires significant repositioning of the teaching-learning processes and environments. Hence, as stated by Garrison and Anderson (2003), “expectations are changing, and there is little question that institutions of higher education are being transformed as a result of e-learning innovations” (p. 105). Today, such institutions are faced with rethinking their roles and responsibilities in order to respond to the premises of the digital era within a well-established digital teaching and learning culture. Building up a digital teaching-learning culture should encompass all aspects so as to train the kind of graduate workforce called for in today’s digital era. Being at the core of any teaching-learning process, faculty members and instructors are challenged with overcoming this difficult task. Changing faculty roles during this shift have been contemplated by various researchers (e.g., Anderson, Rourke, Garrison, & Archer, 2001; Berge, 2001; Garrison & Anderson, 2003; Goodyear, Salmon, Spector, Steeples, & Tickner, 2001; Laurillard, 2002), where the online roles of instructors are typically categorized as pedagogical, managerial, social, technical and instructional, and include several aspects such as course management, instruction, instructional design, research, collaboration, coordination, guidance and interaction (Adnan, 2018). Ergo, a faculty member of the digital era is expected to have competencies that include:

  • designing instruction for online and blended courses as well as face-to-face;

  • delivering instruction effectively for online, blended and face-to-face courses;

  • implementing innovative instructional methods and techniques based on emerging learning theories;

  • orchestrating online systems and tools duly according to key characteristics; and,

  • evaluating system components along with learners’ progress.

Only through competent instructors can educational institutions fully utilize the potential of information and communication technologies within a responsible and accurate approach to teaching in a digital context. Today, many universities provide support and training to faculty members in various formats including informal learning environments, mentoring, in-service training or structured certificate programs (Adnan, Kalelioğlu, & Gülbahar, 2017; Rapp, Gülbahar, & Adnan, 2016) through different organizational structures such as centers for teaching and learning, distance learning centers, instructional technology support units or centers for excellence. Yet still, there are faculty members untended in this process who are either trying to fulfil this need through self-learning or attempting to learn from their peers in the absence of any organizational guidance or support.

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