The Online Learning Experience: Faculty Development for Online Learning at VCU



This week, the VCU ALT Lab team begins the 3-day, face-to-face Institute part of an intensive faculty development experience we’ve collectively developed. Called The Online Learning Experience (OLE), the experience actually consists of three parts: (1) Pre-Institute Activities where participants equip themselves with their own digital toolbelt and begin to explore the Web as a platform of participation, (2) The Institute, where we come together, face-to-face, for 3 full days, and (3) A 3-week online module where participants experience what it’s like to be a fully online student.

Per the home page of the OLE site, participants in the OLE will:

  •  *Explore and examine assumptions about teaching and learning
  •  *Understand the principles of Connected Learning
  •  *Explore the affordances of the open web for teaching and learning
  •  *Learn new technologies that bring Connected Learning to life
  •  *Engage in online course and program development activities
  •  *Experience online learning as a student
  •  *Teach an online course

Those are the outcomes and/or “learning objectives,” and there are a few program features that are not as explicit but worth mentioning:

  • The 3-day, face-to-face Institute is a streamlined version of a prior iteration that lasted a full week.  Though faculty participants are well-compensated for committing to the experience, it’s hard to ask faculty members to commit to a full week in a classroom. Also, there’s the irony of teaching about online learning face-to-face. We’ve tried to make sure that the Institute is a worthwhile effort and that it maximizes the 3-days of face-to-face time.
  • In fact, on the 3rd day, faculty participants work in small groups/teams all day discussing, designing, building, etc. It’s a “roll-up-your-sleeves,” hands-on, minds-on day. Because we have worked hard to bring in groups of faculty members from the same department, this is really valuable time together to do the work of collaborative course and program ((We have a few departments that are launching (or already have launched) online programs and this is a rare opportunity to work together for an extended period of time on courses + program issues)) design.
  • If you poke around the site and the various parts of the OLE, you will notice that we never mention Blackboard. That’s purposeful; this is about exploring the principles of Connected Learning and the affordances of the open, networked web for teaching and learning. Full stop.
  • We’ve got 41 faculty participants going through the OLE this time around. For the Institute, participants will be in two locations; one group on the Monroe Park Campus and one group on the Health Sciences Campus. All participants will follow the same schedule and we’ll connect the two groups via videoconference at strategic moments. During the 3-week online module, all participants will work as one “class,” and we will purposefully have them work together in small, interdisciplinary teams.
  • This is a resource-intensive experience for us. Faculty are compensated for participation and virtually the whole VCU ALT Lab team is involved at one point or another. That’s like a 4:1 faculty:”student” ratio.

If you’re reading this and not a participant, I hope you’ll follow and play along. All faculty participants will be blogging and we’re aggregating all posts into an aggregation hub. Please feel free to comment as you feel moved to do so. Also, we’ll be tweeting using the #vcuole hashtag.


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