Models for Implementing Effective Online Learning

Models for Implementing Effective Online Learning

Laura Corbin Frazier (Mount St. Mary's University, USA) and Barbara Martin Palmer (Mount St. Mary's University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8009-6.ch017

Abstract

This chapter provides a description of five models for professional development (PD) for online instruction and analyzes each model according to domains of effective online instruction (i.e., faculty stance, student self-regulation, faculty support, authentic practice, engagement, community development, and cognitive demand). Additionally, a decision model is provided for K-12 and university administrators, teacher educators, and policymakers to guide strategic decision making in the determination of a model for PD best suited to the needs and resources of their institution.
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Introduction

In the first edition of this book, we described our small liberal arts university and its commitment to teaching and learning in community. That commitment remains. With a student–faculty ratio of 14:1, close interpersonal connections are highly valued. Many faculty members employ the Socratic teaching method and host seminar-style courses or rearrange classroom furniture to foster discussion and allow for student collaboration. Initially, faculty demonstrated deeply held beliefs about learning that is socially constructed in a physical setting (i.e., a traditional classroom). Thus, the challenge we presented was how to transfer our educational philosophy into an online environment and maintain high levels of interactivity, engagement, and close relationships with our students. Since that time, our university has adopted a new learning management system (LMS) that enables interactivity and supports synchronous coursework through video conferencing. Our new challenge is to identify best practices for faculty development and to encourage technological and pedagogical change.

Both authors are members of the Education Department, which was an early adopter of online learning, offering some of the university’s first online courses. In addition to new technological innovations, our university hired a Chief Transformation Officer. This individual recognized the prominent role an Education Department, especially one already moving forward with online learning, could play in technological and pedagogical change at the university level. The following paragraphs describe our online journey from where our original chapter left off to where we are today.

In January of 2016 our university engaged in a “pilot” semester with six faculty members using the LMS that the university was considering for purchase. Instructor and student feedback was favorable, indicating greater satisfaction than with the existing LMS due to its interactivity and ability to support synchronous communication online. The pilot continued into the summer semester and additional faculty were invited to use the LMS in the fall. Again, feedback was positive. In December, our university made the decision to move to the new LMS. As the last transition between LMSs several years prior was forced and rushed with much faculty anxiety and displeasure, it was decided that this transition would be slow. Faculty were notified of the upcoming change and invited to use the new LMS or to remain with the existing one in both spring and fall of 2017. The old LMS would be disabled for the start of the 2018 calendar year. In addition to this purchasing and implementation decision, the university hired its first instructional technologist. This individual became the administrator of the new LMS and provided technical support to faculty. A part-time graduate assistant was also hired to provide faculty support, maintaining regular office hours in our library.

In Spring 2017, a training course for faculty was developed by members of the Education Department. The course included four two-hour sessions offered weekly for a month. Three offerings of the course occurred before the end of the spring semester and three additional offerings occurred in the summer in a modified two-day format (four hours per day). Participants met in person for the first three sessions of the course and synchronously online using the LMS for the last session. Participation in these courses was incentivized by offering faculty the first option on an upgraded laptop or tablet with a peripheral monitor.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Online Instructor Preparation: Teacher education coursework in foundations of education and pedagogy that are delivered online. May be a program of study or a single course or module.

Professional Development (PD): Coursework to extend the knowledge and skills of preservice and/or inservice teachers.

Novice Online Instructor: Preservice or inservice teacher participating in a course to prepare for teaching online.

Instructor: Experienced online instructor who oversees professional development of learners.

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