A model of support
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A Model of Support. Faculty Learning Communities for Online Instructors Laura McGrath, Kennesaw State University. The Catalysts. Isolation Stagnation Desire to learn more Need for eLearning conversations and networking. The Opportunity.

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A model of support

A Model of Support

Faculty Learning Communities for Online Instructors

Laura McGrath, Kennesaw State University

The catalysts

The Catalysts

  • Isolation

  • Stagnation

  • Desire to learn more

  • Need for eLearning conversations and networking

The opportunity

The Opportunity

  • Who: Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning

  • What: Budgetary support for faculty learning communities (FLCs): ”small groups of faculty who are interested in focusing on a particular teaching and learning initiative”

About flcs

About FLCs

  • Cox (2004): “Multidisciplinarity and community are the elements that allow FLCs to excel . . . .”

  • Statistics  Richlin & Essington (2004)

  • Example: Kent State

    • Ingram (2005): “The online learning and teaching FLC uses a combination of face-to-face meetings and Web-based activities to create an environment in which members can consult with each other to improve their online or Web-supported courses.”

About flcs goals

About FLCs: Goals

  • Cox (2004):

    • Enhancing teaching and learning

    • Building community

    • Encouraging collaboration

    • Increasing awareness

    • Promoting diversity

    • Supporting the scholarship of teaching

The learning community

The Learning Community

  • Online Instruction: Supporting Teachers, Enhancing Learning

  • Goals:

    • Address professional needs

    • Provide a forum for sharing best practices & discussing challenges

    • Create a group of online learning leaders

    • Advance eLearning on campus



  • Rationale:

    • University-wide growth in eLearning offerings

    • Limited support for online teachers

    • Need for professional development opportunities

    • Informed teachers benefit students

Facilitating a flc

Facilitating a FLC

  • Petrone & Ortquist-Ahrens (2004):

    • manage the agenda

    • create community

    • promote change

    • encourage learning

    • negotiate and locate resources

    • communicate effectively

  • Appropriate role for junior as well as senior faculty

Schedule and activities

Schedule and Activities

  • Monthly afternoon meetings (November-May, 3:30 p.m.)

  • Activities:

    • Introductions/Profiles

    • Shared practices, successes, challenges

    • Book & article discussions

    • Software trials

    • Online posting (e-mail & group space)



  • Conrad and Donaldson’s Engaging the Online Learner: Activities and Resources for Creative Instruction

  • Hiltz and Goldman’s Learning Together Online: Research on Asynchronous Learning Networks

  • Palloff and Pratt’s Collaborating Online: Learning Together in Community and The Virtual Student: A Profile and Guide to Working with Online Learners

  • A variety of scholarly articles

Call for participants

Call for Participants

  • Searched schedule of courses

  • Invitations through campus e-mail

  • Filled within a week and a half (coordinator + 6 participants)

Cross disciplinary perspectives

Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives

Varied elearning experiences

Varied eLearning Experiences



  • Discussed current scholarship & eLearning best practices

  • Learned from members’ innovations, successes, and struggles

  • Tested potential of eLearning software

  • Established a leadership network



  • “This program reinvigorated my online teaching, gave me new directions for my research, and enriched my sense of professional identity.”



  • Unexpected opportunities and problems

  • Ingram (2005): “maintaining progress and momentum”

  • Varying levels of commitment

  • Achieving goals within time frame

Challenges asynchronous component

Challenges: Asynchronous Component

  • Vaughn (2004):

    • Problems = electronic communication overload; option to delay communication

    • Strategies = involve members in the design and facilitation of online activities; pre- and post-meeting activities  “cycles of inquiry”

Lessons learned

Lessons Learned

  • Meet for at least 1 hour and 30-45 min.

  • Extend over two academic years.

    • Year 1: exploring issues, building community, setting goals

    • Year 2: goal-oriented work

  • Exploration  action  tangible outcomes

  • Sustain community over the summer to avoid losing momentum.

  • Plan for evaluation and assessment

Key questions

Key Questions

  • Does assigning participants roles within the community enhance engagement?

  • How can the community relationships be sustained after the FLC project period?

  • Should dissemination be a required responsibility for funded learning communities?

  • How can the FLC’s impact on teaching practices and student learning in online environments be measured? How can FLCs be assessed?

Why a faculty elearning community

Why a Faculty eLearning Community?

  • Sherer et al. (2003): “Faculty need an active, connected community to help filter the overwhelming availability of information, understand what they find, and use it appropriately.”

  • Especially true for those who teach online

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