Summer Training Helps Faculty Offer Engaging, Accessible Fall Courses

An artistic shot of CSUN's Matador statue framed by trees.

Photo by Lee Choo.

Hundreds of CSUN faculty members are expected to spend their summer training to improve their virtual lessons  — helping to ensure that fall online classes will be rigorous and engaging to continue giving students a top-notch education.

Around spring break, CSUN students and professors were thrown into the deep end of remote instruction as the campus shut down to slow the spread of COVID-19. No one was quite sure what to expect, but the results were mostly positive: many students took time to praise their teachers and university administrators for their ability to pivot quickly, and faculty members reported mostly normal levels of student engagement.

The summer provides the opportunity for CSUN faculty members to catch their collective breath and work to better understand the technologies they’re using and the most effective ways to use them to provide students with a rich learning experience. CSUN is offering its faculty members the chance to take their remote instruction to next level.

“A lot of faculty were very accomplished and were already doing some instruction online or virtually, but a lot of faculty had not done it before,” said Mary Beth Walker, CSUN provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. “It was a big switch, and everybody did such a great job rising to the occasion, but there was a great desire on the part of the faculty to understand more and to learn how to deliver a more engaging experience in the virtual environment.”

Faculty members who wish to view course options and enroll can visit the Help 4 Faculty page.

The training programs include options for faculty members of all experience levels, from relatively new instructors — or those who’ve never taught online courses — who need to get comfortable with the technology, to professors who are ready to build an all-online course focused on active learning, equity and learning-centered teaching. A flier at the top of the webpage offers self-assessment assistance to help faculty members choose which training programs to pursue.

Faculty members can earn stipends ranging from $100 to $1,000 per training course, depending on the time commitment of the course. They can also take advantage of the opportunity to enroll for free in the CSU’s intensive Effective Online Teaching Practices course, which normally costs $1,200.

Enrollment in the summer training programs is ongoing, and early interest has been strong.

“This is all about providing opportunities for faculty to learn more ways to further integrate technology into the instructional experience to further enhance student engagement and outcomes,” said Interim Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer Ranjit Philip. “The interest and desire from faculty to participate in these opportunities has been truly inspiring.”

CSUN’s online instruction was already nationally recognized by Inside Higher Ed for the expansion of its online offerings. But with most classes on campus slated to take place primarily virtually in the fall — and with a recent survey of currently enrolled CSUN students finding close to 90% plan to continue their path to earning degrees and return in the fall — CSUN faculty members were eager to learn more to enhance their virtual classes.

This spring, more than 1,100 faculty members participated in technology related online-instruction training sessions provided by the Faculty Technology Center in the Division of Information Technology, and feedback during these courses helped guide the selection of some of these summer training options. CSUN’s Information Technology Division and the Office of Faculty Development in the Division of Academic Affairs partnered to put together a full portfolio of learning opportunities available starting June 1.

“Most of these programs were designed by trained instructional designers and instructional technologists in Academic Affairs and IT, and they used their extensive backgrounds in pedagogy and technology, and their understanding of the technology tool sets available on campus, to identify the topics that would really connect with faculty members and help them transform their courses to be more enriching and engaging for our students,” Philip said.

The training courses include classes that help professors better understand how to use online teaching tools such as the quiz feature on Canvas and the various advanced features on Zoom. Going deeper, there are sessions that focus on keeping students engaged during virtual lessons.

Sessions called Summer Bootcamps will help faculty go from basic to advanced skills in a variety of categories, including document accessibility, lecture recording and learning analytics.

Another option is the Get Up to Speed with Online Teaching program, which combines live sessions and self-paced learning with live, online teaching labs with instructional designers and instructional technologists who can answer questions.

Faculty who complete the Effective Online Teaching Practices course requirements will be awarded a nationally recognized Certificate in Effective College Instruction that is co-endorsed by the Association of College and University Educators (ACUE) and the American Council on Education (ACE).

“The more in-depth courses start talking about what the research shows about the best ways to keep students engaged,” Walker said. “What kind of assessment tools and quizzes can you use that will really make for a more interactive and rewarding experience for the students? It’s more than how to use the tools, it’s how to use the tools based on what research has shown are the best ways to get good outcomes.”


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