Helping instructors transition to online can be difficult, especially if your institution does not have the resources to support online faculty development. This was the case with Bellin College, one of Wisconsin’s premier private colleges specializing in nursing and medical imaging.
To accommodate the growing demand for their courses, Bellin is moving more of them online. Although the college provides expert instructional design and technology support, it lacks the internal resources for comprehensive faculty development in online pedagogy. It searched for external professional development services and found the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Fundamentals of Online Teaching Certificate, held in conjunction with the nationally acclaimed Distance Teaching & Learning Conference every summer. Bellin’s lead instructional designer, Julie Ryan, and nursing faculty member, Susan Rymer, participated in the certificate course and were impressed with what they learned.
Ryan and Rymer shared their experience with Bellin’s administrators, including Mark Bake, dean of Allied Health Sciences. The college invited two consultants from UW-Madison’s Distance Education Professional Development, Janet Staker Woerner and Karen Skibba, to present a half-day workshop for its instructors. This workshop was an introduction to transitioning traditional courses to online. The discussions from this experience culminated in Bellin’s instructors requesting additional faculty development in designing and teaching online courses.
Staker Woerner recommended the Design and Teach Online certificate program because it provides a comprehensive, cohort-based experience for instructors to learn about online pedagogy and leverage the expertise of their instructional design staff and instructors. The Design and Teach Online program originated at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where it has been successful in helping over 100 instructors make the transition to online course design and teaching. Skibba, who developed the program, believed it could be shared with other universities and colleges, such as Bellin.
Meeting institutions’ needs
The Design and Teach Online Certificate is customized for each institution to augment its resources and technologies. Instructors can participate along with instructional support staff as a team to address their unique challenges. Because each institution is different, Design and Teach Online offers flexibility. Participants can take the courses solely online in conjunction with synchronous webinars or attend face-to-face onsite sessions led by Skibba and Staker Woerner at a time of their choosing.
“In each case, we do a needs analysis and customize the course accordingly,” says Staker Woerner. “We work around their schedule and meet the institution where it’s at.”
The Design and Teach Online certificate consists of two courses: Online Design, which focuses on planning an online course; and Online Facilitation, which focuses on teaching online. In both, participants work on their own online courses. Skibba and Staker Woerner, who both have extensive experience in online faculty development, work closely with them to create a plan for one full module, drawing on research-based instructional design principles and online-teaching best practices. As the participants experience being online students, they also develop learning activities and resources for their own courses.
“Participants in the Design and Teach Online Certificate can immediately apply what they learn to an online course they’re teaching or designing,” says Skibba. “When participants complete the certificate, they have a plan to implement and will be ready for the challenges of designing an online course.”
An engaging and inviting learning environment
After participating in Design and Teach Online, Bellin College instructors feel better prepared to plan a successful online course.
“I have found value in all the material, and it has given me confidence to create a structured, solid online course,” says Michelle Pranghofer, nursing faculty member.
“I now feel as though I have a good foundation in which to choose meaningful activities,” says Stacey May, clinical coordinator for diagnostic medical sonography. “Being a student also gave me a good perspective as to how much course content is appropriate and realistic.”
Bake appreciated the certificate’s creative approach in encouraging collaborative, outside-the-box thinking.
“The program is adaptable to the needs of the participants, which creates an engaging and inviting learning environment,” he says. “Online education presents a unique set of challenges that require adjustments compared to traditional education. This program provided a framework for participants that align with best practice for online education. Participants walked away feeling enthusiastic and ready to implement new concepts. The dedication, support, and motivation of Karen and Janet were remarkable and enabled participants to achieve their desired goals. “
Sense of community
Design and Teach Online creates a sense of community in which participants collaborate and share ideas. Given constant flux in the online environment, this kind of collaboration is necessary to achieve long-term success.
As the market grows for online education, professional development for instructors becomes ever more essential to ensuring successful outcomes for students. “If instructors aren’t familiar with pedagogy in teaching online, even the best-designed course will result in a less than valuable experience,” Staker Woerner says. “We believe strongly in Design and Teach Online and are committed to helping instructors be the best they can be.”