Tulsa Community College: Collaboration Invigorates Faculty Development
Like other higher education institutions across the U.S. and beyond, Tulsa Community College (TCC) shifted to an online-only modality in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Approximately 48 percent of TCC’s faculty did not have previous online teaching training or certification. Not surprisingly, this quick pivot to remote teaching and learning created an immediate need for faculty training.
Prior to 2020, the national trend showed flat enrollment or small increases in online courses (Garrett, Legon, & Fredericksen, 2020). With a push to get students on campus, TCC went against the trend, reflecting a modest decrease in online enrollment. The high number of faculty who lacked formal training in online pedagogy can be attributed to several factors:
- The college had decided to offer fewer online sections in the years before the pandemic.
- Some senior faculty wanted to instruct predominantly or exclusively online, which limited the number of newer and adjunct faculty who needed training.
- The college’s guided pathways course progression model promoted a focus on face-to-face learning modalities for most students.
Additionally, TCC found the student success and retention rates of those taking classes on campus at TCC outpaced those associated with online learning. Most adjunct faculty, and some full-time faculty, did not seek or receive training to teach online as they did not expect to have the opportunity to instruct in this format.
Training to teach and develop online courses was focused on quality and depth: The college offered a two-tiered certification focused on technical/platform training and the study and application of best practices. Our training to this point required faculty to submit assignments in an iterative process that frequently required multiple revisions. At various checkpoints, faculty presented work reviewed by an instructional designer. There was an emphasis on having formative assessments that prepared students to be successful on summative assessments and on alignment between objectives, assessments, activities, and instructional materials.
With COVID as the backdrop, it became clear that TCC's pre-pandemic model was not scalable. In 2020, immediate training was a priority; faculty did not have time to go through both tiers of certification, yet we did not want to let go of valued workshop components. The biggest challenge was finding support for multiple participants in a compressed timeframe. The result was a one-week, 40-hour workshop—Online Teaching Fundamentals (OTF)—offered twice in May, which included content from both certification tiers. There were two synchronous meetings a day focused on design and technology. Participants submitted completed assignments due by 4:00 p.m. each evening and received feedback by 8:00 a.m. the next morning.
Collaboration Made It Happen
Facilitation for OTF would need to transcend the work of those typically charged with faculty development. While online learning technologists and college librarians immediately agreed to help, we still did not have enough instructional designers to deliver the content and review the work. The college had recently appointed five faculty members to Fellows positions to help with development efforts, and although it was prior to their planned appointment, Fellows were able to assume the role of OTF design coaches. However, even with these appointments, we knew we would need more help. The amount of work participants in the workshop were tasked to complete was intensive, and we anticipated that each coach could handle up to 10 participants. Desired qualifications for faculty were online experience, existing developer certification, and completion of a Quality Matters course. Thankfully, stipends were made available for more coaches and, as enrollment rose, we scaled up. In the end, 14 faculty members served as design coaches, and we were able to accommodate more than 100 enrollees in each session. Feedback from participating faculty reflect positive outcomes:
- "Everything about this class was awesome. The designers, my coach, the technologists, and the librarians were wonderful, and the abundant resources on this course site are fabulous."
- "I don't want to teach online any more than I have to, but WOW, is my Bb course site going to be sick for all my classes regardless of delivery! I had no real concept of how mediocre my Bb course site was until I saw how it could be. Well, no more!"
- "Overall, this was one of the best workshops I have attended at TCC.”
Collaboration Keeps It Happening
Initial workshops were fast paced. The technologists met with participants throughout the day, librarians helped faculty obtain resources that were citable and met accessibility guidelines, and interpreters participated in the live meetings. The instructional designers facilitated the live sessions and met daily with the coaches to support those who were new to critiquing colleagues’ work. While some participants found the workshop daunting, many were excited to learn new skills, reconsider pedagogy, and have the opportunity to teach online.
After ramping up with one-week sessions, we changed the length to two weeks in June. By fall, the sessions moved to five weeks; in future iterations, we hope to have offer on-demand training. By focusing on collaboration and bringing people from across the campus into the process, we created a new workshop that was more successful than previous iterations at meeting faculty needs. Having input from so many perspectives made us better. Between May and August 2020, at least 426 full-time and adjunct faculty members completed the training, ending their summer semester significantly better prepared for what was sure to be a year or more of accelerated online learning.
View the Online Teaching Fundamentals workshop here.
Garrett, R., Legon, R., & Fredericksen, E. (2020). 2020 CHLOE 4: Navigating the mainstream. The Changing Landscape of Online Education, Quality Matters. https://www.qualitymatters.org/qa-resources/resource-center/articles-resources/CHLOE-project
Jennifer Campbell, Ph.D., is Faculty Coordinator, Online Learning, and Professor, Engaged Learning; Kristopher Copeland, Ph.D., is Associate Vice President, Academic Affairs; and Cindy Shanks is Dean, Engaged Learning, at Tulsa Community College in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Opinions expressed in Member Spotlight are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the League for Innovation in the Community College.