Helping Faculty Design Online Courses in Higher Education

Helping Faculty Design Online Courses in Higher Education

Victor M. Hernández-Gantes
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-906-0.ch047
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The steady growth of online education has created increasing demands for faculty to design and teach online courses. At issue is the limited pedagogical preparation of higher education faculty hindering motivation to participate or the quality of their online teaching experiences. To address this issue faculty development supports are needed to help faculty transition into online teaching. This article provides an overview of related issues and a sample of emerging faculty development models followed with a description of a promising model integrating design, pedagogical, use of technology, and assessment considerations and adult development, learning, and planning principles. Emerging trends stemming from the review of related issues are also highlighted.
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Over the past twenty five years, the dramatic growth of technology applications has catalyzed a boom in online education. By all accounts, at the onset of the 21st Century, online education has become more popular among students who view the Internet as a viable alternative for the acquisition of information and education (Allen & Seaman, 2008). The universal appeal of the Internet is primarily associated with convenient access “anytime/anywhere” and the opportunity to experience engaging interfaces and media (Motiwalla & Tello, 2000; National Center for Education Statistics, 2002). For institutions, the appeal is even greater in light of rising demands for flexible instructional formats―especially from adult learners, increasing cost of instruction, and institutional competition for students (Havice & Havice, 2005). To this end, the relatively quick development and maintenance of web-based resources prompted institutions to enter into online learning to keep up with the emerging digital world (Bower, 2001; Kim & Bonk, 2006). The result has been a push for institutional participation in online education to meet the steady increase in student enrollments (Allen & Seaman, 2008; National Center for Education Statistics, 1999).

As the popularity of online education increased over the years, critics have noted the uneven quality of online courses and questioned the underlying merits of this delivery mode. The problem is that some institutions have standardized procedures for course development treating all courses the same way regardless of their nature and implicit requirements for delivery mode (Hernandez, Kirby, & McGee, 2004; Kim & Bonk, 2006). Worse yet, some institutions have simply demanded faculty to convert their traditional courses into online format. However, even when training and related supports are available, quite often the emphasis is on using development templates and selected technologies rather than on appropriate online instructional and assessment strategies (Bower, 2001; Maguire, 2005; Palloff & Pratt, 2001; Schmidt & Gallegos, 2001). In other cases, the courses are just a collection of documents including lecture notes and presentations with little teacher-student or student-student interaction and low intellectual stimulation (Noble, 2002; Partlow & Gibbs, 2003).

As the growth of online education continues to rise the calls for quality assurances have become more prominent as institutions compete for students in the online education market. Part of the problem is the tendency to emphasize the use of information technology, while neglecting appropriate training and supports to help faculty understand instructional principles for designing and teaching online courses (Bowers, 2001; Noble, 2002). This trend runs counter to the fact that higher education faculty, in general, join academia with limited—if any—formal teaching training. Thus, many faculty are reluctant to participate in online education as it requires learning new ways of teaching, using new technologies, and juggling added time demands. To ease the transition to and participation in online education, university teaching centers have become commonplace. Nevertheless, reports on professional development supports for faculty participating in online education continue to show the need for coherent professional development strategies to help faculty in higher education design and teach online courses (Barker, 2003; Gardiner, 2000; Hiser, 2008; Maguire, 2005).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Asynchronous Learning: Refers to the use of online education resources to facilitate the learning of students who are participating and accessing instructional resources at different times and locations at their convenience.

Distance Education: A broad term referring to formal and planned instruction delivered to students attending at different locations at the same time or at their individual convenience at different times.

Online Professional Development: Refers to professional development workshops, courses and programs that are primarily delivered online following asynchronous or synchronous approaches depending on the nature of topics and goals.

Synchronous Learning: Refers to students learning as a group at the same time in the same location traditionally associated with classroom instruction.

Online Education: Refers to asynchronous learning facilitated by the use of computer networks and the Internet

Web-Based Education: Refers to instruction integrating primarily online learning using resources made available through the Internet.

Professional Development: Refers to a process involving activities designed to improve professional knowledge, skills, and attitudes on topics of interest with the goal of improving professional practice and student learning.

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