Academic journal article Journal of Education for Library and Information Science

Learning to Teach Online: Creating a Culture of Support for Faculty

Academic journal article Journal of Education for Library and Information Science

Learning to Teach Online: Creating a Culture of Support for Faculty

Article excerpt

As online course delivery becomes increasingly prevalent in higher education, it becomes more important to assist faculty in gaining new pedagogical skills. This article scans current literature regarding concerns and best practices in this area, and reports on a study of institutional support for training LIS faculty. The online survey of 16 quantitative and qualitative questions was distributed to all faculty from ALA accredited master's programs requesting feedback about what support was available and what support was especially needed and/or appreciated by the faculty members. The results of this survey suggest a model of institutional support that includes faculty course release, LIS program level training and support, and structured mentoring. Implementation of such a model will help institutions create a culture of support for online teaching.

Keywords: online teaching, online education, faculty development, faculty surveys

Discussions in the higher education literature regarding online teaching, where content is delivered primarily over the Internet rather than in face-to-face classroom meetings, have shifted in recent years from the general "is it wise and is it good for learning?" focus to a quest to discover and share best practices. While certain voices still call for more careful attention to whether teaching via remote access is in the overall best interest of student learning (Shieh, 2009), we nevertheless generally acknowledge that new delivery methods are here to stay. The current argument is more often centered not on whether to deliver the curriculum online, but how. Central to the "how" discussion needs to be a focus on retooling professors who, when teaching online, are shifting to a completely different teaching and learning environment.

We tend to teach the way our favorite professor taught, which for many of us was the lecture method, or what Brent (2005) refers to as "teaching as performance" and Bain (2004) calls "the transmission model of teaching" (p. 173). But an online learning environment differs from the face-to-face classroom, where human interaction, eye contact, facial expressions, and verbal cues help faculty and students engage in the learning process.

This paper explores the mechanisms used by college professors to adapt to online teaching environments, especially regarding concurrent efforts of their institutions to offer support in the midst of these changes. The paper includes the results of a study conducted to gauge the current availability and impact of such support systems within LIS graduate schools.

To inform this study, I looked for literature that described the importance of, or need for, faculty development in teaching and learning technologies, with an emphasis on online course design and development. Most of this research comes from online course evaluation studies or from IT-focused articles which evaluate the effectiveness of university investments in IT-based teaching and learning tools. I then searched for examples of best practices in technology-based faculty development. Some best practices were true examples of structured institutional support for online course development or for teaching and learning technologies; others simply articulated the need for these institutional supports in our changing environments. As the focus of this study is LIS institutional support, I paid special attention to examples in the literature from within LIS graduate programs.

Background and Literature

Allen and Seaman (2005) report that more than 2.3 million students were enrolled in online courses in the fall of 2004; they also report an 18% per year growth in online course delivery. Within the 62 American Library Association (ALA) accredited graduate schools of LIS, 41 programs (66%) offer some of their curriculum online and 14 other institutions (23%) offer their entire program online (American Library Association, 2009). This indicates that 89% of ALA-accredited LIS programs offer courses online. …

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