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


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


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.


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

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.


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!)”


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.


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”.


  • 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.


  • 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


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


  • “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.

Developing Faculty Mentors: The Low-Stress Option To Faculty Training

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At 10:00am On 11/10/16 I attended Developing Faculty Mentors: The Low-Stress Option To Faculty Training presented by Geni Wright at the 2016 USCA NDLW Virtual Conference.

Developing Faculty Mentors: The Low-Stress Option To Faculty Training

In her presentation, Geni Wright spoke on how developing faculty mentors modeling best practices for online and blended courses is an excellent resource for new and established faculty. Faculty mentors provide a long-term training strategy that is both cost-effective and user-friendly. Faculty are often more receptive to fellow faculty suggestions for course revisions providing collaboration opportunities and development of future training modules based on common concerns and trends. Faculty mentors have the additional benefit of ongoing professional development, interdepartmental interaction, and are often included in the planning and training for early adopters of newly adopted technology at the institution.

This discussion had no slide deck, so it seemed more like a free-flowing presentation with some off-the-cuff thoughts on the way through. Main topics were folded into:

  • Opportunities to enhance faculty training
  • The need for more effective peer to peer training
  • A way for faculty to model universal design in online and blended courses

Geni Wright discussed that her school contains only 175 faculty members at her school, and this required a team of 3 faculty members and a growing system requiring 1 faculty mentor per department moving forward. Faculty chosen for these mentor positions are ones using the universal design theories and practices in their classes. We need the faculty to facilitate and participate in the program are the ones who are showing the best use in their classrooms.

As a school which participates in Quality Matters (QM), faculty mentors participate in an internal peer review process to assist faculty in alignment for initial quality matters pre-review. Quality matters at their school is voluntary. I found this to be surprising. It calls to mind the idea that schools of small sizes have a lot to offer, but not always what is needed for larger schools. Granted, this goes both ways.

Moving into the latter portion of the session, the speaker discussed accessibility and objectives- issues we have covered heavily in our QM training here on campus, and moved into with EPIC. I was EXTREMELY surprised to find out how many schools are NOT ADA section 508 compliant with accessibility.

Some of this was not useful. A major improvement discussed was the use of Starfish, a faculty student evaluation tool, but the speaker mentioned that many teachers at her college were not aware of how to use the blackboard gradebook, and not all teachers did use it. This was extremely disheartening. However, not everyone can be the best, so there was a good deal to learn overall, just not a lot of it was for me.

ECGC Conference: Quality Assurance: QA Practices and their role within the gaming industry

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At a 3:15pm session in the East Coast Gaming Conference held in the Raleigh Convention Center, Ken Turner spoke to the Serious Games Track audience about Quality Assurance: QA Practices and their role within the gaming industry.

ECGC Conference: Quality Assurance: QA Practices and their role within the gaming industry

What is quality assurance? Quality assurance is the testing portion of the development cycle. One of the biggest assets of being a QA Professional. Flexibility. CHanges occur day-to-day, hour to hour minute to minute. You’ll need a plan b, c, and d.

What else beside play games does QA do? I made “such-and-such” game. You may not create the pieces but you help to make it better by pointing out successes and failures. A certain level of quality must exist in the game. to obtain this is where the group comes in. QA makes sure that the game runs well.

Testing if a game works in black and white. but there are functioning grey areas as in which QA does the majority of their work. Does multiplayer work? does that mean can I get IN to a multiplayer game. Do the characters spawn in? can they see each other? can I win/lose the game? will I have a report after the game? can the players interact with one another? How well does it work? to what extent does it work? Thats the QA Dilemma.

Sometimes QA is looked down on because there isn’t much of a postive effect. More artists makes great art. More programming is adding features. Adding QA only finds more bugs. So when should it be used and when not? its the most expensive portion of dev process.

Should QA happen at the beginning or the end? Beginning is nice, becasue iterations can be effected agile fashion. however, its expensive because you’ll be running at the beginning and end. At the end, many bugs will exist, and may cause massive reworks or rewrites. Its cheaper at the end though, because you only test one lump.

Often, the QA job is to focus on budget and throw red flags up. It means checking the budget, knowing the types of programmers you have, the features and quality that you need, and what you have the time to do.

Students seem to want to test only at Beta Stage, because they seem to fear that they won’t like the game at alpha. The tech definition of Alpha is that all features should be present. Beta should be near shippable quality. if you had a gun to your head.

Most materials in programming with a game company stops automation because proprietary software would not allow it. IOS based automation tools do exist, but the best testing and the best tools are made by humans and humans make mistakes. So don’t forget to test and test your testing device. Don’t forget that partners will not share their software.

Does it work, and does it work well. Get those testers. Gameplay testing. Interview them and feel them out to decide whether they like the game. Its scary because the majority of the work is done. Again, this comes back to the idea of testing early or testing later.

For smaller companies, QA test as often as possible.

QA testing needs to test AFTER the product ships. On release, everyone goes on vacation except QA. Cartridge had no chance to fix bugs. Now with broadband, that info is pushed directly to you and you cannot play without it. Updates are certainly patchable.

Now, release dates are vague: “fall”, because QA is no longer in control of when the game drops. Marketing has been telling people when the game will drop, and the public needs to get the materials on the dates/times promised. QA’s job is to get the product out in quality. Marketing wants it out on time. In the end, decisions need to be made and priorities must be made.

QA is great to get in. It is the gateway department because you get to interact with every other department. YOu have to explain the bugs to them, and they’ll tell you why it happened. QA is hard work. Start there, ask for advice, work hard, and you have a great chance to move into the company by taking the initiative. QA role is to enforce that level of quality and let the other departments understand.

Ken Turner is a Faculty member of the Simulation and Video Game Development team at Wake Tech Community College

Software Quality Assurance Certification Achieved!

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After achieving a certification last month in Software Business Analysis with BrainBench, I felt I might be able to achieve this certification. Boning up on the materials I used last month to prepare, I was able to run through this examination with an excellent time/score rating.