Project Management Methods for the Implementation of an Online Faculty Development Course

Project Management Methods for the Implementation of an Online Faculty Development Course

Andrew A. Tawfik (Concordia University Chicago, USA), Carol Reiseck (Concordia University Chicago, USA) and Richard Richter (Concordia University Chicago, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4237-9.ch009


The case study describes the project management methods used in the implementation of a faculty development course at a small liberal arts university. The faculty development course, which was delivered online through the Learning Management System (Blackboard), not only provided faculty with technical competencies, but also a pedagogical framework for online instruction. As faculty members began to see the potential of using technology to overcome time and distance challenges, they became more interested in online education. To accomplish the project goals, the instructional design team created a detailed spreadsheet that outlined the design and implementation strategy for the initiative. Success criteria included increased demand and enrollment in the course, formal adoption of the professional development course as an institutional requirement, expansion of student enrollments in online courses, and student retention rates. The case study describes the unique project management considerations, documentation, and planning required throughout the project.
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Setting The Stage

Prior to the project, the small liberal arts university had very few early adopters of online education. Although a Learning Management System (Blackboard) was licensed in 1998, the medium was not used for course delivery until 2004 when faculty members began to offer some undergraduate courses in a hybrid format. The institution had also made some initial efforts in online education at the graduate level in 2007 in a joint online initiative with a partner institution. However, the partnership effort was unsuccessful due to unclear partner expectations and an apparent lack of a priority status for either institution.

In 2007, a major step forward was made in the graduate college with the creation of an Instructional Design Team, which consisted of two instructional designers and a Blackboard administrator. The head of the instructional design team served as the overall project leader. The three members of the team brought together the technical and pedagogical expertise needed to support the transition to an online learning format. It was believed that the development of online programs at the graduate level would increase student enrollment, build retention, and increase student satisfaction by providing increased accessibility to courses.

Online learning was seen as an attractive option for multiple reasons. First, online learning would help overcome the space and time challenges faced by adult students. Because the university was situated within an urban setting, transportation to the university was seen as a barrier to many students. Online learning afforded time and place flexibility and thereby addressed these barriers for busy adults seeking to pursue their education. This new learning format also extended the geographical market and potential pool of students that the university could serve. Moreover, the online format provided the faculty with new technologies to enhance their instructional strategies.

In 2008, a hybrid graduate degree program built on the cohort model was proposed to the administration as a way to administer online learning. The cohort model was designed to serve a group of students in a given geographical area. In doing so, students entered a program together and collectively progressed through the entire curriculum. The cohort model had been used in many teacher education contexts to build community and promote collaboration among their classmates (Beck & Kosnick, 2006). In this proposed hybrid model, students would meet three or four times during the semester while also collaborating online between face-to-face sessions.

In spite of the potential of hybrid and online education to increase student enrollments, the culture of the university posed some unique considerations. Previous research has shown that one of the greatest obstacles to effective technology integration in higher education relates to the lack of technology literacy and professional development (Georgina & Olson, 2008; Walker et al, 2011). Prior to the project, the faculty members were not familiar with the online learning research. This posed significant problems that had to be addressed in terms of professional development. Faculty were not only being asked to move their content to an online format, but fundamentally rethink their pedagogy to include more of an emphasis on self-directed learning and collaboration (Keengwe, Kidd, & Kyei-Blankson, 2008; Kidd, 2010). Because the university had primarily been a face-to-face teaching university, many faculty members were concerned that a shift towards online learning would diminish the quality of education and the faculty-student relationship.

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