How to Help Faculty Build Online Courses
Campus Technology magazine recently covered the Office of Digital Learning's resources to support faculty with online course design.
Before 2015, faculty at the University of Arizona who wanted to teach online didn't have much in the way of formal support for building their online courses. Instructors got approval from their department heads to do an online course, and they may have opted into help from the Office of Instruction & Assessment (OIA), but there were no established processes or requirements. For some faculty, that was the end of the onboarding experience. "That's all you got," said Angela Gunder, associate director of the Office of Digital Learning (ODL). "You [were] now an online instructor."
With the launch of UA Online, the university's virtual campus offering fully online degree programs, ODL was created with the goal of "doing things a little bit differently," said Gunder.
Instructional designers assumed that meant a more structured approach with "benchmarks" and "steps," but Melody Buckner, director of ODL, had a different idea: focusing on faculty. Buckner decreed, "[Instructional designers are] going to listen to faculty about how they teach, how their students prefer to learn and the unique challenges they face in the classroom," as Gunder recalled. "The faculty are going to drive the process, with the instructional designer there to support and facilitate production."
At the same time, Buckner assured ODL team members that they'd gain access to the resources (both people and tools) they'd need to help faculty prepare for an onslaught of new online teaching opportunities, while also setting expectations high. Since then, ODL has grown from zero courses to almost 400 and from eight people to 23 in the first two-and-a-half years of its existence. The group includes not just instructional designers and administrators, but also videographers, technical support staff and experts in graphic design, website development, quality assurance and project management.
Gunder and several members of the ODL shared their story at this year's OLC Innovate conference, during a session they titled, "Ready for Takeoff? Don't Forget Your Toolkit — Successful Onboarding of Instructional Designers and Faculty."
According to Gunder, the pace of growth in the program presented several challenges:
How to get new ODL team members up to speed with their work;
How to bring new faculty into the fold; and
How to help "legacy instructors" — those who have been teaching online for "years" — improve their instructional practices.
To address that span of needs, ODL came up with an asynchronous toolkit that people could go into and take what they needed for their own onboarding experiences. Thus was born the "Online Course Design Primer," built within the university's learning management system, D2L's Brightspace.
Read more at Campus Technology magazine.