As you know, the higher education field had to rapidly shift toward remote (online) learning in 2020 given the COVID-19 pandemic. These are challenging times for all in the workplace, especially for faculty trying to transfer their face-to-face courses to the online format or for faculty who had to transfer in Spring 2020. Luckily, many of the faculty we partner with had the advantage of designing, developing, and teaching online courses with UW Extended Campus, either currently or in the past. You probably felt more comfortable with the switch to online learning at your home campus because of this experience with UW Extended Campus Collaborative programs.
I recently spoke with Dr. Diane Caporale from UW–Stevens Point. As an academic director and faculty member for the UW Applied Biotechnology (ABT) program, Diane was introduced to online learning from her involvement with the ABT program. For this newsletter’s faculty spotlight, we talked about what she gained from working through the online course design and development process as a faculty member and by collaborating with other campuses as an academic director.
In my talk with Diane, it was clear to hear how much she gained from working within the ABT program. She mentioned how she has taken the practices and lessons learned from the online development process and applied them to her face-to-face courses at her home campus. She said, “From an instructor’s point of view, I learned so much from the experience that I found that I ended up integrating my traditional teaching styles with the online teaching and that the organization we used for the online course development is awesome.” This is similar to what online faculty have reported from teaching online. Inside Higher Ed’s “2019 Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology” revealed an interesting statistic: 77% of instructors who have taught online believe that it made them better teachers by refining their pedagogical skills and practices (Jaschik & Lederman, 2019). Online teaching helps instructors think more critically about ways to engage students, utilize technology, and align course content and assessments with learning objectives.
From an instructor’s point of view, I learned so much from the experience that I found that I ended up integrating my traditional teaching styles with the online teaching and that the organization we used for the online course development is awesome.
In addition to the practical benefits of working with the ABT program, Diane discovered that working in a new online program has invigorated her teaching. “It was such a unique experience for me, and the whole experience has invigorated me and inspired me to be more in tune with the current student population these days. The experience helped keep me up to date with teaching styles and strategies.” The world of online learning is a relatively new and dynamic environment, especially now. Because of what is available for instructors in the online learning space, there are many exciting possibilities that bring new perspectives and new ways to consider teaching and course design.
It was such a unique experience for me, and the whole experience has invigorated me and inspired me to be more in tune with the current student population these days. The experience helped keep me up to date with teaching styles and strategies.
Diane also mentioned how working with the ABT program made her transition at UW–Stevens Point go much smoother. Having done online course development, Diane said that it helped her go from face-to-face to online teaching after COVID-19 forced faculty to go 100% online after spring break. “I felt very comfortable being able to do that. If I didn’t have the experience with Extended Campus, I would have been really lost, and it would have been extremely frustrating for me and for my students as well.” At UW Extended Campus, we’re thrilled to know that faculty can take what they’ve learned from our collaboration and apply it to their other courses, and we’re sure many other faculty feel the same way. It’s the embodiment of the Wisconsin Idea!
It helped me go from face to face teaching to strictly online teaching after the Spring break when COVID-19 forced faculty to go 100% online. I felt very comfortable being able to do that. If I didn’t have the experience with Extended Campus, I would have been really lost and it would have been extremely frustrating for me and for my students as well.
While it is easy to recognize the benefits of online learning, it is important to understand the challenges. Online faculty have reported that a sense of community is lacking from their online course developments despite their desire for a larger supportive online community (Terosky & Heasley, 2015). In addition, faculty report a need for more administrative support for their online courses (Kampov-Polevoi, 2010). But, I’m guessing the authors of these studies didn’t speak with our faculty and academic partners from the Collaborative programs.
Having support at the program and course level is something we take pride in at UW Extended Campus, and the collaborative aspect of our work is rewarding for all involved. Diane mentioned the value of working with the media and instructional design teams during course development and their support during the development period. “[They] sent instructions and other forms of support to allow me to learn on my own time, along with the many phone calls. That kind of support is unprecedented, and it was needed for me who has been teaching for over 25 years. It took away my anxiety about the development process, and it gave me the confidence to design.” Speaking as a member of the instructional design team, we prize the working relationships that we form with faculty during the course design and development process.
Finally, we spoke about the community that was formed between the academic directors on the ABT program. “As an academic director, what was wonderful with working with other campuses was that I was able to learn what other campuses do and get feedback from other academic directors for ideas such as for assessments. The collaboration with other academic directors was awesome because we were all helping each other.” Having been invited to a couple of academic director meetings, it is clear to see the bond that the ABT academic directors have formed.
From applying what she learned during online course development in her other courses to her collaboration with other academic directors, Diane’s experience is truly an exemplary example of a supportive online learning environment!