Strategies for Training Online Faculty

1. Workshop

A series of three one-hour WebCT workshops were offered to all faculty. To allow hands-on experience, all workshops were offered in the computer lab. To accommodate as many faculty as possible, each series was offered both in the morning and afternoon.

Each attendee was given access to a WebCT course so that they could orient themselves and manipulate its features. The workshops were designed so that the first one was simple to understand and only talked about the general features of WebCT. The third workshop of the series required them to perform hands-on exercises, such as uploading PowerPoint files to WebCT and participating in threaded discussions. All attendees were provided packets that contained instructions on every exercise that was performed. Articles dealing with pedagogical principles in online instruction were also shared. On the last of the series, two of the faculty members most experienced on WebCT were asked to give advice on how to facilitate online instruction and to avoid pitfalls when using WebCT.

2. Help Page

A personalized WebCT Help desk was developed to offer faculty assistance with commonly performed WebCT tasks. It was titled, “Learning How to Use WebCT”, and is available to all faculty once they access their WebCT. The Help Page contains workshop handouts as well as updated information on WebCT and distance learning. In addition, faculty were told WebCT also offers support in its help center. WebCT’s monthly newsletter is also circulated via e-mail to all faculty who are involved in WebCT.

3. Brown Bag

After the workshops were offered and the WebCT Help page was created, an hour was allotted every month for informal faculty meetings to share experiences using WebCT. The main goal of the brown bag lunches was to provide a forum for faculty to communicate best practices for teaching online.

4. Individual Support

Individual support was provided to faculty who sought assistance. While some faculty chose to meet in their personal office space, others chose to e-mail or telephone questions as they arose. The faculty’s perceptions of individual assistance were varied, as some expected the technical team would upload and design courses they were teaching. Others understood individual assistance was only for troubleshooting. The Associate Dean for Community Services handled requests of individual assistance to ensure each faculty-support person did not have too much scheduled at one time. A tally was created for the hours devoted to individual faculty assistance, which will be evaluated at the end of the school year to decide whether to adjust the number of support people.

5. Distance Education E-mail Communique

A distance education e-mail communiqué was attempted to update faculty on interesting points about distance learning. Resources included nursing, technology and education journals as well as professional organizations, including the U.S. Department of Education, Distance Education at Postsecondary Education Institutions, Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education and Training Council, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, and the American Nurses Association.

6. Web Library

A distance education library was also created in the School of Nursing. It consists of resources and references on distance education in nursing, and includes a copy of the WebCT series workshop handouts. The Web library has a number professional policy reports on distance education, including the National Association of State Boards of Education’s policy on e- learning, the National Center for Education Statistics Report on Higher Ed and Technology, and the Regional Accreditations Commission report for evaluation of electronically offered degree and certificate programs.

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