Formalizing Online Faculty Training. Does it Make a Difference?
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Purpose: The purpose of this study was to investigate how online faculty apply the training principles and strategies learned in an online faculty-training program, and how students perceive teaching effectiveness.
Methods: A mixed methods case study approach was taken to determine 1) the frequency with which faculty applied newly acquired teaching practices learned in the training program, 2) barriers to using effective teaching practices in online teaching after the training program; and 3) student perceptions of online faculty teaching effectiveness. The Seven Principles of Good Practice served as a theoretical underpinning for the study. The Instructional Practices Inventory (IPI) instrument was used to survey faculty online teaching strategies, including frequency and ease of use and proficiency of application. Student perceptions of teaching effectiveness were measured with the Student Evaluation of Online Teaching Effectiveness survey (SEOTE). Preliminary data from the survey instruments informed follow up interviews with faculty using case study methodology.
Findings: Eight faculty members and 56 students participated in the study representing an 11% participation rate overall. Integration of the newly acquired skill set from training programs varied among faculty (n = 8); however, the overarching themes for successful implementation were ease of use, and relevance to the particular subject matter being taught. Time constraints were cited as a major barrier to implementation of newly learned strategies. Student perceptions (n = 56) of teaching effectiveness ranked the principle of active learning the highest, and cooperation among students the lowest. Of the students surveyed, 67% felt that prompt substantive feedback with error identification as well as tips for correcting their work was an essential component of online learning. Differential assignments based on student competency also ranked high on the SEOTE instrument.
Implications: Distance learning is not analogous with traditional face-to-face classrooms. Differences in student populations, technology, and the asynchronous nature of online learning create unique challenges for faculty and students alike. Students’ ranking of active learning supports the constructivist view and is essential for online learning. This also suggests that online faculty should use realistic assignments and problem solving activities designed to motivate students to take responsibility for their own learning, and do their best work. Though more research is needed in this area, findings from this study indicate that there are opportunities to improve the online classroom to better support inquiry, engagement, and proficiency through formalized faculty-training programs and continuing educational offerings.