Quality Enhancement Plan
GOAL 5: The College will enhance its efforts to institute faculty training and professional development activities for faculty members who teach online courses and for staff who provide online course support.
According to the report from the Course Development subcommittee, faculty should realize the online teaching experience to be both personally satisfying and professionally valuable. Factors that contribute to faculty satisfaction should include support, rewards, and institutional study/research (Moore). Support should consist of technical/infrastructure help, training and instructional assistance, and administrative backing. Rewards should contain recognition of the demands of online teaching through promotion and awards, frequent opportunities to upgrade skills and attend workshops and refresher courses, and access to the latest versions of software and hardware. Administrative support should include appropriate supervision and control of the entire college's online program, equitable workload assignments and class sizes, enactment of policies that support quality control, intellectual property rights, and aggressive marketing of online courses (Moore).
There appears to be wide variance in the support that web faculty receive from their colleges. Franklin University has an Instructional and Professional Development Committee that plans workshops, teaching circles, and other events to keep faculty up-to-date. Additionally, for first-time web instructors, Franklin offers an online faculty development course. Southwestern Community College has an instructor FAQ page. Colorado Community Colleges offer a full range of faculty resources for online teaching including a faculty readiness assessment, software training, training in best practices, resources for preparing classes, and complete information on policies, compensation, and quality control. Cuyahoga Community College provides individual consultation and technical support, logistics support (mailings, marketing, student liaison and contact) and training, as well as encouraging mentoring.
As this goal makes clear, though, CVCC is also committed to provide training and professional development to support personnel as well as faculty members. This means, for example, that appropriate IT staff and student services employees also be offered access to applicable activities and funds.
Because many of the aspects of teaching via the web and teaching in the classroom are similar, the skills and knowledge gained as a result of this particular goal could well have benefits that accrue to faculty members across the College regardless of how they deliver instruction. A strategy that is effective online may well be just as effective or applicable to the traditional classroom. Additionally, the skills and knowledge IT and student service staff members gain will obviously be of benefit to the entire institution, not just those segments directly engaged in web-based instruction.
Objective 1: Year One through Five: Provide professional development for faculty and staff involved with online instruction with emphasis on pedagogy and technology. Disseminate information to involved faculty and staff.
Given the information provided by the Course Development subcommittee, a wealth of research information exists on multiple aspects of online instruction especially that concerning pedagogy and technology. For example, the committee located several sources that discuss the characteristics of the typical online student in terms of demographic and psychological information. The typical online student is a self-directed adult who might fit into one of several types of learning styles. Accordingly, instructors of online courses might benefit from professional development activities that focus on identifying student learning styles and designing class activities that best address the particular requirements of visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners.
Even though the Virginia Community College System Utility is the department in charge of purchasing, programming, and maintaining the Blackboard servers that host all the online courses of the 23 community colleges in the state, the IT staff at each individual college still must make sure the faculty and students can get access to their courses and get help if they cannot. Few aspects of higher education are changing faster than computer technology, so it is important that those individuals responsible for online course infrastructure have the opportunity to improve or expand their skills and knowledge.
The CVCC Strategic Long Range Planning Committee has already taken the first step to implement this objective. The committee's recommendation for $30,000 per year for five years in professional development funds expressly for faculty and staff involved with online instruction was presented by the College President and approved by the CVCC Local Board. These funds will be available for the 2003-04 academic year. Further, the College Board has been alerted that the President will make a similar request for the next four years as well. The Board is fully supportive of the financial needs of the QEP.
Objective 2: Year Two through Five: Conduct research to determine techniques and methods for improving delivery of online instruction.
This objective might appear at first glance to be a redundant version of one of the earlier objectives presented under Goal 4 above. However, this objective differs because of the person responsible. All the Goal 4 research is to be overseen by the Director of Research, Assessment, and Planning. This particular objective, however, is to be conducted by an individual who will be identified through Goal 1, Objective 1. It will be this individual's responsibility to examine the rapidly growing number of books, articles, web sites, and other publications for information dealing more specifically with the pedagogy and technology of online instruction. The individual who chaired the Course Development subcommittee for the QEP accumulated a wealth of data and research findings regarding the elements that should be common to all web-based courses, for example. This information extends beyond the naming of these essential elements into their design and implementation as well.
For example, the Course Development subcommittee report addresses the inclusion of course objectives in the online class syllabus. Unambiguous goals and objectives assist students in a learner-centered environment to understand exactly what is expected of them (Schmidt & Olcott). Students depend upon reading participation guidelines, the course syllabus, assignments, and course objectives in order to determine how to be successful. The well-designed web course will present a close integration of all these elements. Objectives should always be written using action verbs. These verbs should be carefully selected because they suggest desired learner outcome (test format or evaluation method) as well as instructional method (Knirk & Gustafson; Schmidt & Olcott). Objectives generally are classified according to three taxonomies: cognitive or knowledge-based, affective or attitude-based, and psychomotor or skills-based. Instructors may begin by writing very broad objectives (also known as terminal objectives) or goals for the online course. Next, they may write enabling objectives that may address the ABCD (Audience, Behavior, Condition, Degree) formula, as suggested by the United States Office of Education in the early 1970s. To make sure that an objective is behaviorally measurable, attention should be given to whether the desired behavior involves a fact, concept, rule, principle, procedure or attitude and choose an appropriate verb (Knirk & Gustafson). Measuring a student's ability to perform the desired behaviors stated in an objective will be given through an exam, an assignment, or any activity designed to assess student learning.