Nine Ways to Encourage Faculty Experimentation with New Online Teaching TechnologiesVickie Cook | Director of the Center for Online Learning, Research and Service, University of Illinois Springfield
Teaching online can be demanding. Faculty teaching online often spend their breaks between semesters refining and rethinking their classes. Because online classes can be developed from anywhere, they are developed everywhere—not just on campus.
As such, faculty support to explore new technologies may not be at the top of the to-do list. Once faculty have developed a few tried and true tools that meet their specific teaching needs of online course delivery, instructional designers may find these faculty reluctant to try out new teaching technologies. When I attend professional conferences and talk with faculty, the number one comment I hear is that adequate support for new technologies is not available on their campuses.
New technologies are a tool that can be utilized to provide the best teaching experience possible for both the faculty member and the student. With that in mind, this list will suggest nine ways to encourage faculty to experiment with new online teaching technologies.
1. Introduce new tools regularly
Allow faculty a space to see new tools in action, either on campus or through a distance solution. Encourage faculty championing a specific tool to demonstrate it.
2. Provide ongoing professional development
Provide a sandbox to allow faculty try new tools, provide assistance in ways to most effectively utilize these tools to manage the faculty workload.
3. Provide as much faculty support as possible
Support should be ongoing, consistent and available as needed for faculty to feel encouraged to try a new technology. Faculty are less likely to fear trying new technologies if they trust that they will have support not only before a class is offered, but during the delivery of the class and throughout the semester. Consider providing 24/7 support services such as Lynda.com or other how-to services for faculty to use when instructional design staff are not available.
4. Provide student support
If the technology may fail for students, provide a support system for students through a trained helpdesk staff or careful instructions on a central website to ensure that faculty are not the only point of support for students.
5. Use tools that make sense in a given discipline of study
Allow faculty the freedom and safety to explore and suggest new tools they would like to try.
6. Respect diversity in the faculty
Allow faculty to start where they are comfortable and use the technologies they have identified that will meet the teaching needs in a specific class.
7. Start small
Utilize a tool in small ways in a single course to try it out and see if it helps to build the learning environment in meaningful ways.
8. Replace what doesn’t work
If a technology is tried and doesn’t meet the specific teaching need, throw it out and find a better solution.
9. Celebrate success!
Encourage faculty participation in a community of practice and a community of inquiry where faculty are able to share stories, tell of failures and successes, and encourage each other in the exploration of various technologies in their online classes. Provide a distance option such as Skype or Zoom and a recorded option for faculty who are not located in a single geographic area of the campus to participate.
These are just nine suggestions to encourage faculty experimentation with new online teaching technologies. There are others that might be useful and I would encourage readers to post their favorites in the comment section.
Author Perspective: Administrator