Preparing and Training Higher Education Faculty to Ensure Quality Online Learning and Teaching

Preparing and Training Higher Education Faculty to Ensure Quality Online Learning and Teaching

Ben Seipel (University of Wisconsin – River Falls, USA & California State University – Chico, USA) and Chiara Francesca Ferrari (California State University – Chico, USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 33
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7844-4.ch002


In this chapter, the authors discuss the nature of quality online instruction from the perspectives of equity, quality preparation, professional development, and evaluation. Specifically, the authors describe the need for faculty preparation in pedagogical and andragogical practices in general by defining “quality” and qualified professionals. The authors provide initial support for instructors by describing the lesson planning cycle as a useful framework. The authors also delve into the importance of considering one's personal teaching philosophy as a grounding for quality instruction. Then, the authors apply these concepts to online andragogy and the need for continuing professional development opportunities. Next, the authors describe three evaluation tools/opportunities, rubric for online instruction, the quality online learning and teaching instrument, and quality matters, that have been useful to faculty at their institution. Finally, the authors conclude with future research directions regarding quality online instruction.
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Education, whether intentional or not, has always been a platform for self-improvement, an exchange of ideas, and an opportunity for social justice. These three levels of intrapersonal, interpersonal, and extrapersonal growth are hallmarks of a just, formal education system. Accordingly, the content, tools, methods, and platforms that instructors use should be intentional, inclusive, and of high quality. However, in the pursuit of this educational excellence, higher education has always faced these essential questions: What is quality instruction? For whom are these educational experiences designed? Who is qualified to provide the instruction? And, who gets to make these decisions? These issues of quality, access, qualifications, and decision making are intensified in our modern era of online learning. In this chapter, we directly address these questions by examining the need for quality online instruction, the need for initial faculty training, the need for ongoing faculty training and professional learning communities, the existence of evaluation tools for online instruction, and make some predictions regarding the future for faculty training in online education.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Quality Learning and Teaching (QLT): A system-wide program of the California State University designed to assist faculty who teach online to improve instruction while improving student engagement and achievement. In service to this goal, QLT also include an evaluation rubric aimed at providing instructors with feedback.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL): The practice and framework of proactively and intentionally modifying instruction and assessment to meet the needs of a diverse set of learners.

Differentiation: The practice of modifying the content (i.e., curriculum and materials), process (i.e., instructional methods, technique, or strategy), or product (i.e., assessment) to meet the learning needs of students (especially those students with a learning disability).

Reflection: The segment of the lesson planning cycle in which an instructor thinks deeply and purposefully about his or her teaching performance, the achievement of students, and the larger context of a lesson.

Face-to-Face: Instruction that occurs in real time (i.e., synchronously) in which students and instructor(s) are in the same physical space.

Content Area Pedagogy: The praxis and methods, informed by theory, of teaching specific topics within disciplines.

Pedagogy: The praxis and methods, informed by theory, of teaching young learners.

Personal Teaching Philosophy: A set of personal beliefs about education that are often articulated as a written statement but always enacted through practice.

MOOCs: Acronym for “massive open online course.” MOOCs provide access to a wide variety of course via the internet that are based around pre-planned instruction. The courses are generally free or inexpensive.

Assessment: The segment of the lesson planning cycle in which an instructor measures how well students meeting a set of objectives. “Assessment” can also refer to an individual measure such as a paper, project, or test. “Assessment” can also refer to the overall process of collecting student data, evaluating that data, and then making instructional decisions.

Hidden Curriculum: A set of implicit procedures, processes, structures, content, and views that are imparted, if not inculcated, to students in variety of educational settings and systems.

Lesson Planning Cycle: The process of planning instruction, delivering instruction, assessing learning, and reflecting on teaching that continuously repeats. Related to learning cycle and lesson study cycle.

OER: Acronym for “open educational resources”; OER are open-sourced, freely available, and modifiable teaching/learning materials such as texts, media, games, assessments, and lesson plans.

Planning: The segment of the lesson planning cycle in which an instructor decides content, designs instructional activities, prepares for implementation while considering the context and student population.

Professional Learning Communities (PLC): A type of professional development opportunity in which a small-to-midsize group of instructors meet regularly to discuss a specific topic, set of topics, or praxis. Some PLCs are purposefully structured so the team members teach the same or in similar fields. Other PLCs are purposefully structured so the team is interdisciplinary. Related to faculty learning communities (FLC), cohort-based learning communities, and topic-based learning communities.

Andragogy: The praxis and methods, informed by theory, of teaching adult learners.

Backwards Design: The process of lesson planning in which an instructor: 1) examines the end goal, objective, or student learning outcomes, 2) determines an appropriate assessment to measure achievement of that goal, and then 3) plans the sequence and scope of instruction that will lead toward that assessment.

Hybrid: Instruction that generally includes class sessions that are both synchronous (i.e., face-to-face) and asynchronous (e.g., online modules).

Professional Development (PD): The set of opportunities, processes, and products that enable active professionals to improve upon their practice through reflection, training, communication, and collaboration. PD opportunities can be one-time occurrences but have more impact when continuous. Additionally, PD opportunities can be either top-down (i.e., administrator driven) or bottom-up (i.e., practitioner driven).

Scaffolding: The process of teaching material in incremental pieces with a variety of techniques based on the needs and background knowledge of students as determined through formative assessment until the students are able to complete a task (or understand content) unaided.

Quality Matters (QM): A non-profit program that offers subscription-based options to assist individual instructors and institutions to improve their online course offerings by using a set of rubrics based in standards.

Blended Learning: Instruction that generally occurs in real time (i.e., synchronously) but some students attend a physical classroom (i.e., face-to-face) while other students attend online via an online learning management system (LMS) or digital learning environment (DLE). (“Blended learning” and “hybrid learning” to some people are interchangeable; see also “hybrid learning.”)

Instruction: The segment of the lesson planning cycle in which teaching or content delivery primarily occurs.

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