July 9, 2019

Improving Technology Enhanced Learning with One-Stop Shop Faculty Support

Advising Leaders

By Elliot Felix

One third of all students in the US take at least one course online (NCES), and online education is growing at about 10% a year (BusinessWire). Colleges and universities are also creating more hybrid courses that may “flip the classroom,” with students watching lectures and doing readings before class so that time in class is spent on discussions and problem solving. Neither would be possible without new technologies to create, host, share, read, view, and discuss content.

This growth in technology enhanced learning means that institutions have to support their faculty while increasing the quality of the student experience and lowering the cost of education. One of the best ways to do this is to create physical and digital hubs for faculty support services like instructional design, media production, and technology support. This post outlines why colleges and universities should create these one-stop shops, what services to offer in them, what spaces to include, how to staff them, and tips for successful implementation and operations.

Academic Innovation Studio, UC Berkeley (Strategy: brightspot, Design: Blitz)

Why Create a One-Stop-Shop for Faculty?

Creating a one-stop shop to help faculty design, develop, and evaluate their courses provides benefits to faculty, staff, and their college or university. Having all the resources in one place—physically and digitally—makes them more visible, saves faculty time, makes it easier to refer them to other staff to avoid the run-around, and makes it easier for faculty to learn from their peers. It also makes it easier for staff to collaborate and coordinate their work, particularly because this kind of support center is likely to include staff from a variety of departments: information technology, libraries, a center for teaching and learning (or similar), and external staff such as from an Learning Management System (LMS) provider or an Online Program Manager (OPM).

Creating a one-stop shop faculty support center to help faculty design, develop, and evaluate their courses provides benefits to faculty, staff, and their institution; it saves time and money while increasing course quality, enabling consistency and collaboration, and meeting rising demand.

From an institutional perspective, as online learning grows in prevalence, the conversation has to move from the program and school level to the campus level to enable consistency, avoid duplication, create economies of scale, and steward the institution’s brand and reputation. Pulling together staff and services that were previously separated organizationally, physically, and digitally helps. It also helps decrease the cost and increase the quality.

Of the nearly 200 institutions that responded to the WICHE 2017 study, 43% said online courses cost more than on campus courses, 57% said it costs the same, and none said it costs less. In the Quality Matters / Eduventures 2019 report, interaction among students and faculty increased by about a third when faculty worked with an instructional designer.

Supporting Technology Enhanced Learning: What are the Services to Offer?

Whether it’s a “Center for Teaching and Learning,” “Center for Learning Innovation,” “Faculty Support Center,” or called something else entirely, your one-stop shop needs the right set of service offerings—digitally and physically. These can vary based on the institution but in our consulting work and the courses we’ve taught for EDUCAUSE on designing instructional technology support models there are several services that have emerged as the most common:

  • Communication and outreach to increase awareness of services, build relationships, and convene training and showcasing events
  • Instructional design to support faculty in designing an assignment, course, or program to achieve learning outcomes
  • Library support to integrate information, data, citations, and other tools into assignments and syllabi
  • Interactive development to create concept animations, games, and other interactive experiences
  • Media production to plan, capture, and edit videos of lectures, discussions, or other events to be viewed online
  • Content hosting through a learning management system (LMS) to provide access to and back-end analytics on course content like videos, readings, and assignments
  • Instructional technology support to orient, train, and troubleshoot technology that faculty use in their teaching
  • Assessment and analytics to understand the uses, satisfaction, and outcomes of an assignment, course, or program
  • Learning spaces to oversee the planning, design, operations, and evaluation of spaces to support active learning
Service Center Canvas by brightspot (learn more)

What are the Spaces in a Faculty One-Stop Shop?

What a one-stop shop looks like and how it functions will vary based on its location on campus, its services, its volume of use, and what else is happening on campus. However, there are several typical spaces to consider:

  • Multifunctional reception/lobby/lounge space that creates a welcoming entry experience and can support informal conversations and events
  • Consultation space for instructional designers and others to meet with faculty over a cup of coffee and in front of a whiteboard and a monitor
  • Tech helpdesk with a walk-up function and remote support through chat, email, phone, and video to solve basic questions like uploading to the LMS
  • Prototype classrooms for faculty to learn in (e.g., attend a training session) as well as try out (e.g., teach a practice class in) to test out new activities, technology, furniture, and layouts
  • Event spaces to host events that enable showcasing faculty work, training events, symposia, and other events (which can also be accommodated in classrooms and lobby spaces)
  • Staff workspace to enable staff to be productive individually and in teams, including offices, workstations, meeting areas, and support spaces
Eberly Center Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation, Carnegie Mellon University (Strategy: brightspot, Design: MRY)

Create a shared service philosophy and shared norms across your departments and disciplines because otherwise, the day-to-day work and service delivery will pull you apart.

Tips for Success

To enable online learning, you’ll need to understand the changing landscape of higher education, create a faculty support center, and design your instructional technology support model. Here are our lessons learned as tips to help you move forward:

  1. Think of your one-stop shop support center as “phygital” because it should be both a physical and a digital service hub that brings services together so they are more effective to use and more efficient to deliver.
  2. For the physical hub, it’s location, location, location. The inertia of a faculty office is hard to overcome, and so locate your space in a central location like a library where many faculty already go (or pass by) anyway.
  3. Create a shared service philosophy and shared norms across the groups because otherwise, the day-to-day work and service delivery will pull you apart—particularly if different staff groups that are co-locating report to different people.
  4. Enable faculty to learn from and be inspired by their peers through events, showcasing, and training. This is what will spur adoption of new techniques and tools for active learning in online and hybrid courses.
  5. Plan to work with faculty members and specific schools that are in different places along the maturity curve; some will want to push boundaries while others need the basics. Your spaces and services need to be designed with this range in mind.

With technology enhanced learning growing each year for both online and hybrid courses, institutions have to support their faculty while increasing the quality of the student experience and lowering the cost of education.

Creating a center to support faculty with instructional design, content development, technology, and assessment is one of those rare times when you can have your cake and eat it too—bringing the services and staff together physically and digitally makes them more accessible, more useful, more efficient, and more scalable all at the same time!

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