Propel: Driving Learner Success Through Purposeful Instructor Support

Published by Carrie O'Donnell
on Mar 05, 2021

In a study we conducted last summer with nearly 500 higher education faculty, we learned most were spending 49 hours prepping new online courses prior to the start of the semester. For existing courses, 23 hours per course. And fine tuning content throughout the term? Eight hours per week. This is in addition to teaching, not to mention other duties like research and service.

However, we also learned that while most were confident in their ability to teach online, 42% have little experience and nearly half were attempting to mirror their face-to-face teaching in the online environment. Both of these factors are strong indicators of not understanding the intentionality involved in developing and delivering effective online courses.

As we move beyond emergency remote instruction towards improving the online learning experience, how do we ask faculty to do even more preparation? The reality is, we shouldn’t. Instead we should purposefully support instructors to help them more effectively and efficiently develop their online courses.

In our latest webinar, “Propel: Driving Learner Success Through Purposeful Instructor Support”, Brett Christie, Ph.D., our director of learning experience design, and I shared more about this research, what makes up effective learning and two models for instructor support.

Here are the key takeaways:

Faculty Needs

  • While there is widespread interest in support services, less than half of the faculty reported having access to many support services outside of personal development workshops; our focus group participants reported feeling unengaged with the workshops.
  • Faculty also reported interest in tools and resources to explore what others are doing and could help them use their time more efficiently.

View all of the study findings we share just after the 4 minute mark in the webinar.

What Makes Great Learning

  • Many campuses lack a shared understanding of what makes learning effective.
  • There are gold-standard quality rubrics, such as Quality Matters and QOLT, to help evaluate existing courses, typically at the end of the semester. 

At the same time, faculty lacked an easy-to-implement tool to help them examine essential course elements in the context of student success – and then effectively iterate course improvement throughout the term.

Our Purposeful Learning Framework Scorecard helps faculty self-check how their course aligns with eight key elements of purposeful learning and iterate from there. It’s also a great starting point for institutions to begin creating a shared understanding of effective learning across disciplines. Learn more here.

Two Models for Instructor Support

Centralized Instructor Support

  • Typically resides within an institution’s Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL)
  • Access to resources is available in an ongoing, self-serve basis through a specific web portal (e.g. Learning Commons); templates, handouts, online workshops, video tutorials, model courses are some of what’s often provided.
  • There is a Process in place to support and sustain faculty as they participate in programming toward targeted changes; faculty orientation and/or learning community, 1:1 mentoring or support with experienced faculty, instructional designer or through the CTL
  • Outcomes determine how well faculty are doing  to impact student success and measure the CTL effectiveness; Teacher efficacy, student satisfaction, course data, etc.

Responsive Support: Decentralized and Personalized

Flexible and responsive to individual instructor needs and includes the following beneficial components:

  • Action Learning creates the opportunity for faculty to work on their own courses as part of a learning experience. 
  • Specialized Coaching provides an expert support network, used to elevate specific problems, for example, rethinking Canvas course flows to improve the student experience. Think Apple Genius Bar. 
  • Personalized Resources of faculty-built libraries of tools, discipline-focused exemplars and automated design templates to help increase course prep efficiency.
  • Implementation Support offers virtual access to specialized experts as needed (e.g., academic technologists, learning designers, media producers) to reduce development barriers
  • Learning Community gives faculty a community of practice; faculty and experts collaborate to deliver effective learning experiences for their students.

We have seen tremendous success with training anchored around a responsive support model. Our Jumpstart, Propel and several other product offerings fully embrace these key components. Drop us a line to learn more.

Whatever your approach to instructional support, please take the time to earnestly show faculty your appreciation. Our study results also reveal how hard they’re working for your benefit – and for your students. The entire webinar is available here.

Our next Webinar, “Learn While Doing: Continuous Development of Learning Experiences“, is Wednesday, 3/24/21 at 12 pm EST. We hope to see you there! Register easily here.

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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. 

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.