Engaging Faculty Learners: Does a Constructivist Approach Help Motivate the Dis-Engaged?

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At 11:00am On 11/8/16 I attended Engaging Faculty Learners: Does a Constructivist Approach Help Motivate the Dis-Engaged? presented by C at the 2016 USCA NDLW Virtual Conference.

Social Media & Learning Engagement in Online Education

rene-shaeffer

This presentation looks at the real life experiences seen in an asynchronous course designed for faculty at the University of South Carolina

History

From early 2004 until Spring 2011, there was only one instructional designer for campus and statewide system! You can imagine how Overwhelming this was. Mainly this was 1 to 1 consultations and workshops met the needs of some faculty. She Kept answering same questions and concerns, but there was no budget for instructional design.

Beginning

Started maintaining Instructional Design Repository on Blackboard in 2001. Instructional Design department members had a background in Quality Matters (QM) since 1998. Quality Matters (QM) is a nationally recognized, faculty-centered, peer review process designed to certify the quality of online courses and online components.

Background 1991 until 2011

She and her department began growing faculty populations- adjunct, clinical, full-time, part-time faculty and teaching assistants. During this time, online education seen as a tool to boost enrollments. The University began a re-organization with New delivery methods and a Move from Repository to Course. In 2007, they designed a basic asynchronous course for faculty based on the principles of Quality Matters and the ADDIE (Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, Evaluate) Design Model for 14 interested faculty.

Without financial/administrative backing, the faculty did not finish the course!

1st adopters didn’t see need for training, and In a Nutshell- Development was needed. Primary faculty advocate for distance education faculty saw the need to help. So, they used University-supported software and LMS- Blackboard. Though they could offer no reward system except certificate (surprisingly effective), people got involved. Faculty seen ill-prepared to teach hybrid, flipped, blended or online courses

Decisions</h2
To create more success, the result was created as a Fun, free, explorative, 8 week asynchronous online training course- Effective Online Instruction (EOI) since 2007 statewide. Faculty could participate as online learners, and take a Constructivist Approach- they could learn from their own experiences
Collegial and non-threatening.

History

Consecutive EOI Offerings:

2007- N= 14 Initial offering
2008- N= 10- Pilot project
2009- N= 32 First Real Offering
2010- N= 46
2011- N= 71
2012- N= 91
2013- N= 62
2014- N= 93
2015- N= 68
2016- N= 67

Why take the training?

What is your main reason for taking the Effective Online Instruction course?

  • Possibility of more money/income
  • I want to get another job
  • Departmental mandate
  • Want to keep current in my teaching

All were true!

Overview for the course

  • Basics
  • Student-instructor relationships
  • Online learning tactics
  • Backwards design
  • Basic teaching methods
  • University procedures
  • Technology

Structure of course

  • Incorporate constructivist teaching methods throughout the course
  • Use all relevant aspects of LMS so that faculty can see how and why to use them
  • High level of communication with wikis, blogs, discussion boards, social media
  • Assignments are viewable for the entire class (good and bad)
  • Providing cognitive dissonance is a hallmark of the course
  • Faculty forced out of their comfort zones but on their own terms
  • Constructivist model- Students can come to their own realizations and make their own discoveries through experiences in the course
  • Not always favored by faculty!!!

Constructivist Approach

  • Faculty use their own experiences and knowledge in their assignments
  • Every assignment/assessment is aligned to learning objectives
  • Facilitator leads the faculty member along a “bread crumb” trail of knowledge and experiential learning

Hallmarks of Constructivism

  • Constructs knowledge rather than regurgitation of a series of facts
  • Ask questions
  • Explore
  • Real world problem-solving
  • Experiential learning- Do!

Builds on curiosity

It was important that in these classes, we focus on not just mechanically remembering facts or doing tests. The important thing is that we build on knowledge through sequential reflection in discussion boards, wikis, blogs

Poll 2

  • What concerns you most regarding teaching online?
  • Not enough time to commit
  • I am just scared
  • Haven’t been in class for awhile
  • I don’t think that I am ready for this
  • I don’t want to look stupid

Lessons Learned

Problem: Faculty anxious and scared
Remedy: Course is designed to be a collegial, non-threatening experience for learning and exploration
Involvement and engagement encouraged but problematic because of no reward system or due dates/deadline

Problem: Faculty Worried About the Training
“I need step-by-step instructions like you would give a 6 year old, and need more encouragement and instruction on using discussion board.”
“One of my issues is that I teach 7 courses and that’s not my full time job!  Often I have felt is I just got the basics out there I deserved an A.  But lately I knew I was missing the mark.”
Often, faculty are displeased when a student says “just tell me what to do to get an A”, but that’s exactly how many approach the professional development. They may not need the info, not use it, or simply aren’t committed to getting the information around their primary schedules.

problem: Social Media Dilemma
“I was really, really, really opposed to joining Facebook.  I have real privacy concerns, and their policy is not a good one. However, after almost a week of thinking about it, I bit the bullet and did the assignment.  It was a close call — I almost dropped out of the class. I decided to go ahead and join because I knew I would learn some important things, and I figured the benefits would outweigh the costs in the long run.”
Technology can be difficult to adapt to, especially if you have some pre-existing thoughts that continually get in the way.

Issues in the Course

  • Many faculty not interested in learning in a constructivist manner.
  • They prefer being given facts.
  • “Tell me what to do”
  • “Could you do it for me?’
  • Some faculty put up roadblocks all along the way so that they can easily “give up”.
  • Necessary Facilitator Characteristics
  • Empathy
  • Playing “devil’s advocate”
  • Good use of counseling background!
  • Ability to help people in denial
  • Ability to coax and motivate faculty
  • Ability to use humor in the course

Faculty need basics of course design but not in-depth knowledge

“I really liked learning about Bloom’s Taxonomy.  I am embarrassed to say this was the first I had heard of it. : ( What a tremendous help!!!!)
“This course seems to put all the pieces together- like the one-stop shopping.”

Poll 3

What dilemmas do you face in taking this course and teaching online?

  • Money
  • Time
  • I have other things to do
  • Technology issues

Being a little bit out of date…

When looking to training and a constructivist classroom, it is important to focus on realistic Faculty needs. Often this requires a good, long, hard look at the skills, talents, and training they have. Unfortunately that often means Increasing need for basic skills and training in online teaching, and a definite need for overarching information on Bloom’s Taxonomy, good teaching methods, technologies, social media

Instructional designer in IT only academic on staff

Problems faced:

  • IT area only discussed technology not pedagogy or teaching- not favorable to faculty
  • Many faculty never had training in teaching methods (“What is a learning objective?”)
  • Many faculty taught like they were taught 20-30 years ago!
  • Anxiety
  • Tenure and promotion pressure
  • Other Situations
  • Little or no administrative backing or directive mandating instructional design help for online teaching
  • “Sink or swim” method prevalent
  • Faculty didn’t want to commit themselves to possible, and often times, probable “failure” in teaching online
  • No additional funding for faculty

Problem: Faculty too busy or pre-occupied
Remedy: Course is asynchronous as a direct result of faculty concerns. There is never a “good time” for a live class meeting. Always something else taking priority, especially when you don’t want this to happen. Some faculty have taken course 3 times or more!

“I didn’t like all the readings. I didn’t want to read them so I didn’t. It would have been a problem if I had to, but since I do not, it is not a problem. I actually like the fact that I have choices.”
“I have never used discussion board and feel like I need step-by-step instructions. It may seem simple to the Gen-Xers, but not to me. Also, I don’t feel like reading everyone’s post to get caught up, so i just decide not to read at all.”

“Since this is an eight week course, it is truly a pressure cooker course. Because there is so little time, not a minute can be wasted!”

Faculty need basics of course design but not in-depth knowledge

“I really liked learning about Bloom’s Taxonomy.  I am embarrassed to say this was the first I had heard of it. : (  What a tremendous help!!!!)

“This course seems to put all the pieces together- like the one-stop shopping.”

“I can now understand that structuring online courses is much different than planning for a conventional f2f format.”

“Until now, Blackboard and I were just friends but we are now forming an intimate relationship, thanks to Renee and my classmates! (Sorry, Blackboard, if you feel used! And I will drop you if a better course management package comes along!)”

Strengths

Relationship building- a community of faculty learners statewide. “I was wondering if that would be an interest in some sort of “reunion.” Perhaps this group could meet, albeit informally, in Columbia somewhere… It would be great to see the faces that go with names, and to spend some time discussing these issues…”

Faculty are very enthusiastic to find that they are not alone in their trip into the unknown area of online learning. While they are experts in their fields, they are mostly “digital immigrants” moving into this arena. Success was seen when faculty “came of age” in learning and incorporated instructional design in their courses.

Positives

We have found several positives that can come from online courses: Course assignments are real-work on faculty’s online courses-no busy work! Helped many teaching assistants and adjunct faculty members get teaching positions. Seen as a stepping stone in obtaining University grants. Relationships continue long after the course

“The instructor approaches us as adults with varied needs, varied motivations, and varied commitment to levels of engagement with this course”.

Weaknesses

  • Lot of work for the facilitator in prep and facilitation
  • Faculty often “waffle” back and forth in their commitment to course
  • Every faculty/student had a different story- just like “normal students”
  • Without being strict on the timeframe, faculty/students sometimes take advantage of situation
  • A majority of the faculty participants felt at a loss when it came to using social media specifically, Facebook. In the future, the instructional
  • designer will need to give more step-by-step instructions on basic concepts such as how to make a Facebook account and “like” a fan page as the majority of the faculty participants were unable to do so.

Adding Video

The instructional designer gave written directions as well as video and screen capturing videos showing participants how to navigate the course (wikis, Adobe Connect sessions, YouTube videos) on the learning management system, Blackboard, but these attempts were not sufficient enough to meet the needs of the faculty participants. In the future, more initial training handouts will be written and “how-to” videos produced.

Weaknesses

  • Lack of institutional mandate that faculty take the course
  • No reward system in place- financial, time, reduced workload
  • Recent development of similar course on campus- Good to have money to pay faculty to complete the course

Issues

1st adopters in their units want course to be more advanced. 1st timers want course to be more basic. Problematic following special requests for different time offerings or other special considerations. Facilitator’s validation from students sometimes lacking- hard to beg for participation

Faculty often think that they have to abandon their own teaching philosophy.

Sometimes faculty don’t think that they have much to learn. Ultimately some faculty don’t want to learn this way. Some put up artificial roadblocks so they don’t have to finish course

Weaknesses

  • “Herding cats” Scenario- Participants do not want synchronous meetings but evaluations say that they want more f2f interaction or live online
  • interaction
  • Little academic or administrative directive mandating instructional design help for online teaching
  • Quality Matters review initiative
  • No set pattern system-wide for training or teaching online
  • Limited resources, budget, and time
  • Mechanism to get faculty involved in course

Future Plans

Only offer the course once a year. Do not leave faculty students in the course throughout the year. Just like regularly scheduled terms, have strict timeframes for completion. Finally… Soul searching is good.

Faculty may not like the constructivist method or the cognitive dissonance while they are in the class, but feel better about it later.

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