Implementing active learning strategies across different modalities can be an arduous task for faculties since it is time-consuming to plan, facilitate, and ensure a meaningful learning experience. Sufficient and quality support, therefore, is crucial to help faculties teach effectively in diverse educational settings.
When asked about what could be done to better support faculties' teaching across different modalities, most institutions identified three elements that are the most important: 1) provide adequate prep time, 2) offer quality technological support, and 3) deliver networking opportunities and professional development. (2023 Faculty and Technology Report: A First Look at Teaching Preferences since the Pandemic)
In this article, we will elaborate on how faculties can tackle each of these 3 elements effectively.
The impact of the pandemic and technological advancement has added extra responsibilities to the already heavy workload of educators. Instructors now have to quickly learn to master varied technologies and teaching methods to facilitate quality learning experiences across diverse educational settings. Demands for paperwork, administrative processes, and many other no-name duties also eat up the major amount of time that is supposed to be spent on the most important task – teaching.
“Teachers’ time is one of a school’s most valuable and scarce resources, yet it’s often wasted because of poor leadership and management.” (Anderson, 2019)
Institutional leaders have a big role to play in “creating an environment where teachers use their time well, succeed with their students, and stay in the profession”, as emphasized by Susan Moore Johnson, author of the inspiring book on the role of leaders in nurturing high-quality teaching “Where Teachers Thrive”. There are many actions that the organization board can take to help instructors make the most of their time.
How can institutions improve and maintain quality technology support to help faculties teach effectively across modalities? The 2023 Educause Faculty and Technology Report suggested educational leaders:
“Improve the quality of technology support (i.e., develop better user training, ensure that tech personnel have enough expertise to adequately answer questions, and invest in in-house support as opposed to outsourcing it).”
In fact, many universities and colleges have shown exemplary initiative in creating a strong support system.
The College of the Mainland has been “continually investing in new hardware and applications, from cloud-based e-mail to self-service tools that automate help desk tasks”, according to James Tagliareni, Vice President of Information Technology & CIO in his insightful article “Enhancing Campus Technology, Improving Help Desk Support”.
James highlighted 4 approaches he and his team have adopted to improve the support quality:
The transition to remote learning during COVID-19 prompted faculties at Queen’s University to seek a “more robust teaching tool than the one they are currently using”, said Selina Idlas, Educational Technologies Innovation Specialist. Their current tools for peer feedback and group evaluation didn’t meet their needs due to poor integration into Brightspace, and a user-unfriendly interface.
“[The current tools] were very labor intensive for instructors and other educational support professionals.” - Selina Idlas, Educational Technologies Innovation Specialist, Queen's University
FeedbackFruits Peer Review (PR) and Group Member Evaluation (GME) tools met all the requirements developed by the Queen’s team, which were: seamless LMS integration, single sign-on (SSO), Gradebook synchronization, large group management capability, timely support, user-friendliness, and consistent user experience.
To ensure a smooth transition to Peer Review and Group Member Evaluation, the Queen’s Centre for Teaching & Learning worked closely with the FeedbackFruits team to provide pedagogical support for instructors. Selina remarked:
"We have a really robust support model to get FeedbackFruits tools] launched as quickly as possible and to make that transition happen.”
For Danielle D’Souza, Educational Support Specialist at Queen’s, this support model was a huge benefit for her. Danielle needed to help an instructor design and facilitate a 2-part assignment where students participating in the first part would get reviews from students participating in the second part. This assignment was challenging and “complicated” according to Danielle. However, she reached out to the FeedbackFruits team for support and received detailed instructions on exactly “what to do, which settings to for in the tools”. Thanks to this close collaboration, both tools were successfully adopted and implemented at Queen’s.
In response to this need, the 2023 Educause Faculty and Technology Report highlights recommends that institutions:
“Provide more training, professional development opportunities, and opportunities for discussion and collaboration. Also, give advance notice for these opportunities (e.g., training focused on best teaching practices related to modality and technology use, instructional technologies, assistive technologies and accommodations, inclusion and accessibility, and assessment and learning design).”
Below you can find a list of communities, and resources to help you with professional development and networking opportunities.
The POD Network Google Group aims to establish an accessible community of practice where every higher education professional can exchange resources, questions, and ideas regarding higher education, educational development, teaching & learning.
Educause Community Groups: EDUCAUSE Community Groups (CGs) are online communities where higher education professionals learn from and network with each other around shared topics and interests. Groups interact throughout the year via online discussion forums found on the EDUCAUSE Connect platform and virtual meetings, and many CGs meet in person at the EDUCAUSE Annual Conference.
Some active communities are Instructional Design, AI, Blended, and Online Learning
Increasing interactivity and engagement in course design: A series of 3 courses focusing on the knowledge and skills necessary to increase student engagement, interaction, and collaboration in online, blended, or hybrid/HyFlex courses. All the courses are free and flexible in terms of attendance.
Friday SLO Talks is a series of free webinars organized by The California Outcomes & Assessment Coordinator Hub (COACHes) to connect educators in discussing experiences, ideas, and strategies to create quality learning experiences.
The Friday Conclave hosted by Melody Buckner, Associate Vice Provost of Digital Learning for the University of Arizona is also a series of online discussion forums where educators are invited to discuss different topics in higher education.
Advancements in pedagogical technology have allowed institutions to move learning to different modalities other than the face-to-face setting. Cross-modality teaching empowers educators to address diverse students’ needs, which drives engagement and active learning.
Teaching in the same mode is more convenient and less time-consuming, but each modality brings unique benefits which can be magnified when combined. In a world where technology is constantly advancing, the need to balance different instructional modalities is absolutely crucial.
So what do institutions need to teach effectively across modalities, without putting extra workload on faculties? In addition to a improved and increased instructional and technology support, there are more actions that institutions can take. Our ebook "Online, Hybrid, or HyFlex? How to balance different modalities for active learning" provide practical strategies that institutional leaders can adopt to help faculties make the most of learning modalities to promote active learning.
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