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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)
  • 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