Incentives and Training

Training faculty

Training facultyby Marian Stoltz-Loike, Ph.D., Vice President of Online Education for Touro College.
Published on Inside Higher Ed

A new academic fairy tale goes something like this.

Once upon a time there was a great faculty member who had been lecturing to her class for 25 years. She was smart, entertaining and interesting. One day, the president of her university told her they were going to flip the classroom. In a flash, she placed much of her material online, along with interesting videos and other material and, in class, she cleverly led the discussion among students, always making sure to speak far less than her students.

The reality? It doesn’t always work out that way.

In an attempt to control costs, colleges across the country are requiring faculty members to teach at least one online course each semester and many colleges may favor in hiring or promotion those with online teaching experience. This works when faculty members are given proper support to succeed. Online education is inherently a technology communication platform that offers another method for student instruction. It is up to the instructor to make it great. But, even after many years of online programs, many instructors still don’t have the necessary tools to move to an online format.

Too often the transition from classroom to online or blended learning is difficult. Articulate faculty members steeped in traditional classroom instruction may find their style translates poorly to an online environment or a videotaped lecture. Being able to “act” for a videotaped lecture is not a typical requirement for a professor’s CV.

It is up to academic administrators to not only instruct students in online courses, but also to teach faculty members how to be effective online instructors. As a first step we need to communicate about why we are considering flipping classrooms or introducing or increasing online instruction. Research and thought pieces about how new instructional methods impact student learning should be shared with faculty.

Instructors should be involved in university decisions about changing classroom education, integrating new technologies, and building the step-by-step process to make this happen. Unless we manage change well, our most respected faculty members will vote with their feet, leaving for other positions, and colleges and universities risk losing their most valuable resources.

Online education needs to work closely with educational technology teams to enable faculty members to translate their classroom courses to new blended or online learning environments. Focused training should include how to set up online courses, how to use the university learning management system for online courses (LMS) and discussions about new software tools that can be used to enhance online learning.

Peer-to-peer learning can enable translating strategies into best practice in online courses. Consider the learning opportunity in webinars for information sharing and remote train-the-trainer courses for new and experienced online faculty.

By partnering with department chairs, colleges can reinforce the role of faculty and ensure that non-traditional courses are integrated into the department’s academic goals and strategies. And colleges can show that they are committed to faculty success in online education by providing release time or incentive pay to those willing to create new online courses, mentor colleagues less familiar with distance education, or offer webinars to share best practices with other faculty teaching online.

Faculty may be offered a small monetary incentive the first time they teach an online course to encourage them to try this new delivery platform and to compensate them for any extra work involved.

Universities can show they value excellence in online education by evaluating online, as well as classroom teaching, as part of faculty review for promotion or tenure.

Faculty members are the university’s unique selling point and most important competitive advantage.

But many professors have been pushing back against the mega-move to online education as a matter of misconceived self-preservation: Although professors define a university’s identity, some professors may believe their institutions will replace them with online education solutions and they will be out of a job.

That’s not likely, even from the narrow perspective of a university’s self-interest.

First, colleges are not about to fire their full-time tenured instructors or even lower their salaries and replace them with online courses that require no faculty presence. The massive lawsuits and other complications that would arise make this unrealistic. And most colleges respect and value their professors.

Second, colleges are not likely to rent out space in their classrooms, let buildings lie abandoned, or repurpose all classrooms to other academic use space as students lie in their beds watching online classes.

Finally, there is a false belief that, as colleges pursue cost savings, they will purchase material from one of the small numbers of MOOCs – massive open online courses – or another for-profit course material producer and offer it to their students. Colleges that buy courses from the same relatively small resource pool would rapidly lose their distinctiveness and unique pedagogical selling points, unless faculty remained involved and transformed static online material to a dynamic learning experience.

No, those beautiful old colleges won’t fade away. Parents are willing to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in their children’s education because they believe university-based education is the key to the future. Educational magic is created by great faculty members who provide the knowledge and tools students must acquire to reach their goals. To make that happen we need to ensure that instructors receive the training they need to be most-effective in the rapidly changing educational landscape.

Do You Have What it Takes to Be a Successful Online Student?

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Distance learning is great form of education – it allows you to have a flexible schedule, learning material whenever and wherever you want. But online learning is not right for everyone. Do you have what it takes to be a successful online student?

Here are 8 questions to ask yourself before signing up for an online course:

  1. Do you feel comfortable working independently? You will need to be in charge of your own learning, and be able to learn without a roomful of classmates surrounding you. Your professor will be there to help, but you will need to do most of the work on your own.
  2. Are you sufficiently computer literate? Do you know how to download files, send and receive emails with attachments, search the web, and play online videos? These skills are necessary for any college course, and they are even more essential in online courses.
  3. Do you have the self-awareness to realize when you need help, and the confidence to reach out for help when you need it? In a regular classroom setting, the professor is always standing by to offer help and answer questions, but in an online course you will have to take charge and initiate contact on your own.
  4. Do you have excellent time-management skills? To be a successful college student, you need to manage your time well, and in online courses this skill is especially important.
  5. Are you self-motivated? You will have to be able to proceed through your coursework with a lesser degree of feedback from your teacher, and without the sense of peer pressure that comes naturally in a regular classroom setting.
  6. Do you have enough time to dedicate to the course? Online courses allow you to have a flexible schedule, but that doesn’t mean they don’t take time! Make sure that you have enough time in your schedule to fit in all the studying and work that you will need to do, and that you will be able to balance your schoolwork with your other work and family responsibilities.
  7. Do you have strong reading comprehension skills? Much of your learning throughout the class will likely be based off of reading the textbook on your own. Textbook-based learning may be more difficult for students who are primarily auditory leaners, so you may want to consider your learning style before jumping in to an online course.
  8. Do you have strong written communication skills? You will likely need to do a lot of written communication throughout your online course, such as emailing questions to your professor and posting on discussion boards. You will need to write clearly and articulately in order to get your ideas across.

Online courses are not necessarily easier than traditional courses; they are just more convenient. So before you take an online course, take some time to reflect on whether online courses are a good fit for you and your learning style.

What are the Benefits of Synchronous and Asynchronous Learning?

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When students listen to a lecture together in a classroom, they are engaged in synchronous learning; all students are participating in the learning process at the same time.

In an online course, synchronous learning is no longer a given. Professors can choose whether to offer synchronous learning, asynchronous learning, or a combination of both.

Synchronous learning may take the form of a live lecture, live chat room, phone conference, video conference, or Google Hangout. Benefits of synchronous learning include:

  • Students can ask questions in real-time.
  • Students feel a greater sense of community and connection to their peers when they all learn together.
  • Students become more engaged in their learning.
  • Students feel a stronger sense of collaboration.

Asynchronous learning can be provided through recorded lectures, powerpoint slides, or reading assignments that students can access on their own time. Benefits of asynchronous learning include:

  • Students can progress through the learning when they want, where they want, at the pace they want, in the order they want.
  • Students have more time to reflect on what they learned.
  • Shy students may feel more comfortable interacting with their professor or peers when they have time to compose thought-out emails rather than feeling pressured to speak up in a live conference.
  • Students can participate in the same activities regardless of timezone.

How have you used synchronous and asynchronous learning in your online courses? What benefits have you observed?

Source: Advantages Of Using Both Synchronous and Asynchronous Technologies In An Online Learning Environment by Michael Higley

How Can Colleges Play a Role in Creating the Next Generation of Global Citizens?

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With so many technological devices at our fingertips, the world has become a much smaller place; people of all different cultures can come in contact with each other at any time of day or night, regardless of timezone or location.

Given the diversity of interactions that occur in today’s globalized society, it is essential for people to develop an attitude of tolerance for, and appreciation of cultures, religions, and perspectives that differ from their own.

In an article on TheGuardian.com, Patrick Blessinger and Olga Kovbasyuk suggest that higher ed institutions should play a role in preparing the next generation of adults to be upstanding global citizens.

How?

Colleges – and online colleges in particular – should focus on finding ways to promote intercultural communication.

Through virtual learning spaces in the form of blogs, wikis, email, and virtual conferences, students from all over the world can join together and learn together. They can use online forums to discuss political, ethical, and scientific issues that are pertinent to all societies around the world. Students can also work on shared projects together, which helps bridge cultural gaps and fosters a sense of community and togetherness.

In this way, students will develop intercultural communication skills that will last with them for the rest of their lives.

For the full article, see Higher education needs to build global learning communities on TheGuardian.com.

Do Online Games and Video Games Promote Social Emotional Learning?

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Parents and educators tend to discourage teens from playing online games or video games, thinking that the games encourage isolation and a degradation of interpersonal skills.

Surprisingly, however, some educators believe that video games might actually help students develop crucial skills that improve their self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and interpersonal relationships. According to Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D., playing online games or video games can promote each of the 5 core competencies of social emotional learning:

  1. Self-awareness – When progressing through the levels of a game, individuals receive constant feedback about their performance and become aware of their strengths and weaknesses. Players also have the opportunity to adopt “virtual identities” and encounter novel experiences. Observing their own choices and behaviors in these virtual situations offers players a better understanding of themselves.
  2. Self-management – In order to reach goals, win contests, and claim achievements, players must overcome feelings of frustration or failure and instead develop patience and perseverance.

    Another reason why games promote emotional management is that playing games allows people to abandon their negative moods (e.g. boredom, stress, loneliness, frustration, or anxiousness) and instead take on positive emotional states that game-playing tends to stimulate (e.g. curiosity, excitement, awe, wonder, relief, pride, or connection to other players).

    Furthermore, gesture-based games (played using devices such as the Kinect and Nintendo Wii) can help regulate emotions through the physical-feedback effect.

  3. Social Awareness – Games that are played in online communities promote social awareness because they encourage players to engage in cooperative play, trading, negotiation, and sometimes even compassion or altruism.
  4. Relationship Skills – When working in teams, game-players develop negotiation skills and conflict-resolution skills. Even when playing one-player games, individuals can develop relationship skills by sharing tips with their classmates or other players around the world.
  5. Responsible decision-making – Many games require players to practice responsible decision-making as they weigh in factors related to ethics, safety, social norms, respect for others. Players learn to recognize the consequences of their choices and develop skills in problem-solving, recognizing patterns, and strategizing.

So, what’s the final verdict? Do video games promote or impede the development of social emotional skills? Are games a dangerous path to isolation, or should they be an integral part of any educational program’s curriculum?

Will the Higher Education Industry Undergo the Same Transformation As the Publishing Industry Did?

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The publishing industry has undergone a dramatic change since the advent of the internet; traditional print newspapers such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal no longer dominate the news industry, as blogs and online magazines become more popular, professional, and accessible.

In an Edsurge opinion article, Nick Gidwani, founder of SkilledUp, points out that the Higher Education industry seems to be following the same pattern. Just as the advent of technology allowed many people to publish articles in a cheaper, easier, and faster way, technological advances are also allowing people to deliver education en masse in a way that is faster, more efficient, and more economical then the traditional system of face-to-face education.

In short, technological advances have eliminated the market’s primary barriers to entry.

So if the higher ed industry follows the same pattern as the publishing industry, what can we expect?

Gidwani explains that “much like there is little need for 40 national newspapers writing near-identical stories, there is also little need for 200 professors all delivering the same Biology 101 lectures.” Since almost anyone can now create and distribute their own online courses, Gidwani believes that MOOCs will act as “gatekeepers” to ensure that only the best professors and best courses will be prevail. In order for a course to survive, it will need to be highly entertaining, engaging, and be run by a professor with solid credentials. You can’t just get away with teaching a regular dry course any more because there will always be online courses out there that teach it better than you do.

To better create engaging and interactive lessons, Gidwani predicts that society will continue to develop new tools for creating educational content.

Furthermore, Gidwani believes that society will give rise to “Alternative Professors” who will devise innovative teaching and learning strategies. Their courses will become popular and dominate the educational playing field. Amateur teachers will then rise to the occasion, filling in the gaps of whatever courses have not yet been developed.

The good news is that this transformation of the higher ed industry will create a more dynamic education system that can adapt to teach whatever people need to know for their job responsibilities (which is constantly changing due to technology). Additionally, students from all backgrounds will have equal access to education because education will be cheaper.

On the downside, with online education on the rise, students will lose the “holistic experience” that can be gained only from an on-campus experience. Furthermore, Gidwani predicts that academic research may suffer, and the best universities will be forced to “narrow their scope to only what they do best, as innovation in the long tail will pull the best talent in emerging fields away from them.”

What do you think? Will the higher ed industry follow the same pattern as the publishing industry? Is this transformation for the better or for the worse?