More than 55 faculty and 25 administrators from three campuses assembled at the recent University of Alabama System Teaching with Technology Institute to promote teaching excellence in online and blended settings.
|Rodney Nowakowski, professor of optometry, uses multimedia to engage students and presented on its advantages at the recent University of Alabama System Teaching with Technology Institute, which promotes excellence in teaching in online and blended settings.|
Skills development, new technologies, course design and teaching strategies were key topics of discussion among faculty from UAB, the University of Alabama at Huntsville and the University of Alabama.
The institute, which convened in Tusca-loosa May 19-21, encourages scholarship and collaboration among faculty designing and teaching blended and online classes.
“There really was something of interest for everyone, no matter the skill level or development needs,” says Pamela Paustian, assistant director of the Health Sciences Program for the School of Health Professions. “I think the institute was a great success.”
The meeting was the first of an ongoing, shared effort for faculty training and community-building across the system, says Michele Korf, executive director of Distance Learning and Outreach for the UA System.
The Telecampus Technical Subcommittee, including Karen Shader, Ph.D., and Stephanie DeRieux from UAB, worked with other campuses to provide planning input for the event. Korf says Tele-campus Steering Committee support, through Provost Eli Capilouto and Sheila Sanders, vice president of Information Technology, also was vital.
A number of UAB faculty were presenters, moderators and facilitators, complementing outside invited keynote speakers for each day.
The active participation of UAB, UA and UAHuntsville faculty was valuable and beneficial to all, Korf says.
Rodney Nowakowski, O.D., chief of staff for UAB Eye Care, and Paustian were among the UAB faculty who participated.
Nowakowski’s uses multimedia to engage students and presented on its advantages.
“Online education is booming around the world and especially in this country,” he says.
“Many colleges are offering online components. Some of them are providing the blended courses in which you have the traditional classroom lectures plus an online component. Then there’s the true online course in which students don’t come to class in the classroom, but come to class online. I see no end in sight.”
Nowakowski uses a blended approach in his classrooms, which he says opens up more avenues for him to teach his students in a more thorough manner.
“I still have the students in classrooms, but I also have the online component so I can do things like post a video of the proper way to do a physical examination and they can see it 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” he says. “Online learning offers advantages that are hard to ignore.”
Paustian agrees. The Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences (BSHS) program offers blended in-class and online course options to meet the needs of students facing the challenges of time, distance, family and work responsibilities.
All faculty in the BSHS program merge online and classroom students together into a single course site for each course.
Paustian says students benefit under this format from an increased interaction with each other and the faculty.
Students can interact in the classroom and through discussion boards and chat rooms, she says.
“Students also have access to impromptu classroom discussions through audio lectures online.”
Paustian says the need for professional development is crucial as more faculty members incorporate online tools into their instructional environments.
“We need a variety of ways for continued learning and skills improvement to be delivered efficiently and cost-effectively,” Paustian says.
Institute participants supported the idea of a systemwide online community forum to collaborate, share best practices and describe strategies to engage learners.
Korf says this will be a goal of future Telecampus work, and the Scholars Institute may become an annual event.
“We now are working on formal evaluations from participants, but what does seem clear is that those attending valued this kind of opportunity to interact with peers across our campuses and come away with new ideas and teaching approaches to take home and try out,” Korf says.