Launching Faculty Learning Communities: Participation is All About Perceived Value

Published by Brett Christie, PhD
on Jul 14, 2021

In an earlier webinar, O’Donnell Learn CEO, Carrie O’Donnell and I shared practical ideas and examples for building learning communities among faculty. These communities provide a rich opportunity for faculty to gather around a common goal, learning together and from each other while accomplishing a desired outcome.  

Faculty learning communities can provide the time, space and resources for mission-critical efforts related to teaching and learning. Teaching expertise is most often not part of the faculty background, nor is instructional design a common skill. Plus, faculty often develop courses in isolation. In contrast, gathering faculty around learning design can create vibrant exchanges of what’s working, what’s not, and problem-solving around how to make improvements.

While learning communities offer a number of benefits to faculty, launching and sustaining one can have its challenges. What I’ve found over the course of my career is the greater the perceived value by faculty, the greater the participation. It is important for leadership to position the value of faculty learning communities for more than the campus or a department, but what the value is to the individual faculty member and enabling their ongoing success. 

Let’s look at some examples:

  • Career Advancement – Communicate administration buy-in; show participation is recognized and will stand out at tenure promotion review. Provosts might even add a letter of recognition for a faculty member’s dossier.
  • Interdisciplinary Collaboration – Promote the benefits of bringing together different mindsets and experiences to build a community of shared learning successes vs. isolated hit-or-miss.
  • Scholarship of Teaching and Learning – Attach a research component for participating faculty, either individually or collectively, with an opportunity to present or publish. 
  • Safe Space to Be Heard – Commit to giving faculty support and a voice; building community requires trust, authenticity and vulnerability, without the fear of retribution.
  • Learn by Doing/Experiential Learning – Anchor learning communities around a specific topic and set goals and desired outcomes that promote “learn by doing.” For example, improving student learning experiences via low-stakes assessment.
  • Bragging Rights – Host a campus-level showcase or online exhibition; each learning community makes a short presentation among their peers. 
  • FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) – Create a desire to be part of what’s happening. Openly acknowledging community camaraderie, collaboration and success helps increase interest and FOMO.  St. Francis College experienced this following a customized version of our Jumpstart program (a multi-week learning design bootcamp). 

Through learning communities, faculty can make lasting, incremental improvements to their teaching – a direct benefit to student success. While at the same time, learning communities also provide an excellent means for developing a proven model around a specific initiative or challenge prior to any efforts to scale. 

Ask our sales team how Jumpstart can help you launch an effective, cohesive faculty learning community!

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Higher Ed Has the Toolset, But Do They Have the Mindset to Future-fit?

Published By Joana Jebsen
on Aug 12, 2021

Imagine a fresh-faced eighteen year old, naive to the great big world ahead, hoping for an acceptance into an accredited two or four year college. They’re navigating the long hall towards their college counselor’s office, reviewing the list of schools in their mind, while envisioning a future of friends, inspiring courses and eventually a career, a life. College, whether community or four year, will be their first steps towards adulthood, towards maturity, or so they think.  What they don't know, what they aren’t told, is that most higher education is unequipped to prepare them for life. The real responsibilities they’ll meet when they exit campus are not delineated, explored or taught in school.  To make matters more complicated, the notion of the “traditional student” no longer exists. Students are opting out of four year residential colleges for two year schools and online programs. They’re also delaying the start of college in pursuit of a career. Additionally, there’s been an enormous uptick in adult learners, with families, who start school later, or attend school in tandem with a job. It’s clear: there’s a broken talent pipeline. And an enormous question: is higher education fit for the future?

Looking Back/Learning Forward: Lessons For the Now Normal

Published By Brett Christie, PhD
on Jul 20, 2021

Looking Back, Learning Forward, a motto and mindset to utilize as we envision the future of distance education and fuse historic learning practices with modern lifestyles. I recently co-hosted a webinar with Dr. Jim Julius, Faculty Director of Online Learning at Mira Costa College, where we walked a group of educators through insights gathered over the last fourteen months of online learning. If one thing is clear, it is that it’s been a journey for everyone: faculty, students, education consultants, learning designers, institutional leadership, and families alike. 

Learning Trends for the Now Normal

Published By Brett Christie, PhD
on Jul 08, 2021

I recently co-hosted a webinar with Dr. Jim Julius, Faculty Director of Online Learning at Mira Costa College and previous panelist to the EDUCAUSE Horizon Report: Teaching and Learning Edition. This year's annual report, 2021 Educause Horizon Report, describes trends and developing sectors in the modern and rapidly changing education system. We led a group of educators through insights and analysis of trends in technology to advance higher education delineated in this year’s issue of the Report. For this discussion, we focused on the social, technological, and economic trends based on the Horizon Report research. Here are some key takeaways.