By Lurene Kelley
Many of you have taken Canvas training. Some have even completed the four week, fully online Faculty Training (OFT) course. Even if you’ve not participated in a single OLET training – we’d like you to see what’s ahead, as online learning will play a vital role in the future of CBU. A cadre of faculty and adjuncts prepared to deliver and facilitate high quality online learning will be essential to the success of this initiative.
On January 13th, we launched our inaugural Online Course Design (OCD) session – a 16-week, hybrid course created to produce fully-developed, quality online courses by the end of the semester. Eighteen professors and adjuncts are part of the first OCD cohort.
To head off your question, yes, we are aware of the OCD acronym! And yes, we want our educators to be a bit obsessive-compulsive when it comes to generating and facilitating their online class!
The course began with a kickoff and happy hour for facilitators and participants to get to know each other, as well as a presentation about the unique design of the class. Some participants in the class have little or no online teaching experience. Others have been teaching online, but understand that designing a quality online course is something different.
“I am taking this course in order to become a more well-rounded online course designer,” said Cort Casey, an associate professor in the CBU Education Department. “I have actually taught quite a bit online before, but I am a novice online course designer.”
The first six-weeks are fully online. Participants read articles, watch videos, take quizzes and contribute to forums, just as their online students do. It’s part learning online course development, part “what it feels like” to be an online student. In these six weeks, professors explore ways to engage with their class, how to develop a course that students can easily navigate, and advanced features in Canvas. We also ask educators to rethink what they know about teaching in a traditional classroom and approach digital learning in a new, yet familiar way. The entire course is built on the foundation of student-centered design – all aspects focus on creating an online learning environment that considers how students best learn, navigate and participate online.
Karen Golightly is an associate professor and Chair of the English Department at CBU. She has taught online at various institutions, including CBU, for 20 years. But as any good professor knows, online or in the classroom, there is always room to grow.
“I’m trying to balance the specific student outcomes needed for each assignment/discussion question and some of the smaller details that are required, such as guiding questions for videos with the content of a literature (or creative writing) course,” said Karen. “The OFT (Online Faculty Training) got me working directly on these two aspects, but I want to refine those aspects of my course. I also want to engage students more. I’m going to work on how to make my courses more interesting. I hope this doesn’t include videos of me speaking very often, as I don’t like doing that. But I’m looking forward to learning how to establish a social presence online (I am often too direct) as well as engage students better.”
A period of contemplative, self-paced work follows the online portion. In this phase, professors take what they’ve learned and apply it to creating their fully-online course. Each participant is assigned to one of our Instructional Designers (ID). During the course design phase, participants meet one-on-one with their assigned ID. Participants will also gather in person at least once during this phase to share ideas and learn alongside their colleagues and our entire OLET team.
The culminating event will be a showcase that the entire CBU community is invited to attend! Our participants will give short presentations about their online course in an open forum. The goal is to share ideas with fellow participants, but also to show any interested faculty, students and staff what a high quality, online course looks like at CBU.
It’s going to be a challenging 16-weeks for our participants – all who teach, serve in leadership roles and/or work outside CBU. OLET has provided a fair stipend for successful completion, but just two weeks in and it’s obvious: these educators are in this to teach their students well, no matter where it happens.
As stated in CBU’s strategic plan, we are all dedicated to providing transformational learning experiences by “expanding vibrant academic programs and student experiences.” Developing a high-quality, interactive, meaningful online learning program is a key part of this mission. Online teaching is not antithetical to a Lasallian education. If we do this with care, it is central to it.
Lurene Kelley is the Online Student Success Specialist for Christian Brothers University’s Center for Digital Instruction. She holds a Ph.D in Organizational Communication from the University of Memphis and is a former college professor and journalist.