Oct 21 2021

Technology-Based Teaching Requires a New Approach to Faculty Support

Effective integration between technology and online teaching calls for updated professional development programs.

Given the abundance of technology in our daily lives, it can feel surprising to encounter challenges related to integrating technology into the classroom. With a heightened focus on innovative teaching and hybrid learning, plus the rapid shift to remote instruction caused by COVID-19, faculty have never faced more pressure to effectively incorporate technology into their teaching. 

These shifts also place new demands on the IT and instructional technology teams tasked with supporting online and hybrid learning.

Learning to apply technology to existing teaching practices is not the biggest concern. A more significant challenge involves critically analyzing and balancing the affordances and constraints of each tool with the pedagogical approaches instructors wish to employ. 

Introducing new technological tools into established practices may challenge instructors’ beliefs about how to teach most effectively. The accompanying reflection process then extends through the various phases of teaching: pre-planning, facilitating, and post-teaching reflection and iteration.

A Need for Ongoing Support and Long-Term Transformation

Despite these dramatic shifts, it is rare for institutions to provide the continual developmental support necessary to promote transformational teaching. 

Two types of instructional technology professional development opportunities often exist: mandated training to push out discrete information (new systems training, privacy, etc.) and optional workshops focused on specific instructional challenges. Often, the latter are hosted by teaching and learning centers, IT groups or curriculum and instructional support groups.

While one-off workshops may target specific practices, they rarely inspire holistic transformation. In addition, the technologies we adopt and integrate continually change, which requires a continual process of relearning the tools. It is assumed that faculty members will return for additional support or put the pieces together on their own, but that may not happen as often as necessary.

When institutional stakeholders and faculty overvalue just-in-time learning models, it becomes challenging to transform teaching. Targeted workshops solve targeted problems, but they aren’t a strategy for long-term transformation. 

If our goal is to realize the full potential of hybrid or online learning, the focus should be on helping faculty move beyond the initial skill set established during the past year and a half, and on promoting reflection regarding beliefs about teaching and learning in conjunction with evidence-based practices.

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A Broad Range of Professional Development Opportunities 

Professional development opportunities need to be many things: robust, yet scalable; just-in-time, yet anticipatory; digestible, but comprehensive. We know that instructors gain self-efficacy through practice and through vicarious experience. By establishing a range of learning opportunities that offer time for practice and reflection, in combination with learning communities and mentorship, we can create transformative learning experiences for faculty. 

While high-touch models for faculty development can be challenging to scale, early investment in such opportunities can establish faculty champions who model effective teaching practices, mentor novice faculty and distribute knowledge over time. By creating a variety of learning opportunities that promote instructors’ reflection on their use of technology throughout various phases of teaching, along with opportunities to share and learn from other faculty, instructors will have the building blocks they need to transform their teaching with technology. 

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