By Mariam Ahmed
This post originally appeared in the IDIG Ontario #9x9x25 Challenge.
As instructional designers, an important part of our role is to provide professional development to faculty and instructors (though how it can be received varies). This faculty development can take many forms, e.g., it can be one-on-one or in a group; it can be done in person, over the phone, via webinar, via email, via blog-post, via tutorial, in a handout, etc.
Below are some suggestions based upon our experiences designing and facilitating a faculty development workshop called Let’s Connect!:
- Ask faculty which topics they want to learn more about – Instructors will be more invested in learning about topics that matter to them. At the end of each of our workshops, we ask for participant suggestions on future workshop topics.
- Consider topics that are important to your institution – A couple of our recent topics have been accessibility and open educational resources. Since the introduction of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), our team has created a number of processes and guidelines to help ensure that the course materials we develop meet the standards of the AODA. A workshop like Let’s Connect! helps us share such guidelines.
- Invite guest instructors to share their experiences – We’ve had positive feedback from sessions where guest instructors shared their practices with their peers; instructors attending such sessions reported this as “a great source of motivation.” Part of the success of our professional development course for new or seasoned online instructors, Teaching Adult Learners Online, is that it is facilitated by an experienced online instructor.
- Carefully plan out the workshop – The more interactivities you have, the more important it is to carefully plan all of the details. A lot of people and steps are involved in making just one two-hour workshop run smoothly.
- Offer it in different formats – Don’t assume that all instructors can come to campus on the date/time you’ve selected. Let’s Connect! started as an in person offering, but it evolved into being simultaneously offered both in person and via webinar, which opens it up to more participants.
- Make it an active learning experience – Rather than ask faculty to watch a presentation or a demo, ask them to try out a tool or engage in guided discussion with their peers. In feedback from our early sessions, instructors told us they wanted hands-on experiences. Even better, let your faculty leave the session with something tangible, such as a communication plan or a toolkit of open educational resources.
- Select the most convenient timing – In the early years, we received feedback from instructors saying that the workshop should be offered before the semester starts. Unfortunately, this is hard to do, as some of our instructors aren’t hired until very close to the semester start, so we run this workshop during the second week of classes. We also try to make the offering convenient for our instructors, i.e., offer it right before evening classes at our school begin, so that any classroom instructors can attend in person before they teach.
- Connect faculty to other services at your institution – Invite experts or representatives from other units (e.g., the library, computing services, etc.) to co-facilitate your workshop or let faculty know where to find them and the type of support they can provide. Try to break up the silos.
For more ideas on designing and delivering effective faculty development, check out the tips from Patty Phelps in her article Five fundamentals of faculty development.
Mariam Ahmed is an instructional designer with Digital Education Strategies at The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education, Ryerson University.
Phelps, P.H. (2018). Five fundamentals of faculty development. Faculty Focus.