Sustained Development: Creating Customized OWI Instructor Training Programs Which are Built to Last

Proposal Title: 
Sustained Development: Creating Customized OWI Instructor Training Programs Which are Built to Last
Presenter(s): 
Abstract: 

The 2013 Position Statement of Principles and Example Effective Practices for Online Writing Instruction (OWI) helpfully lays out principles to guide faculty training and development; these principles are presented as “baseline requirements” for effective OWI instruction, but may not be entirely feasible or sustainable for many financially or resource-strapped institutions.  Based on research from the workshop leader, participants will be presented with several institutional models of training and development -- models which vary widely in terms of funding, intensity, and administrative commitment and support.  Through discussion, small group, and individual work, participants will develop ideas for a sustainable instructor training and development program within the context of their own university’s budget, resources, and administrative support structure.

Proposal: 

Introduction:

 In April 2013, the long-awaited Position Statement of Principles and Example Effective Practices for Online Writing Instruction was published by the Conference of College Composition and Communication’s (CCCC’s) Committee for Best Practices in Online Writing Instruction (OWI). 

 The Committee clarifies that each “principle” laid out in the Position Statement “expresses a baseline requirement of OWI”; therefore, it was heartening to see the inclusion of principles related not only to student learning and online pedagogy, but also to an area which has historically been overlooked and undervalued within the field of OWI – both within disciplinary scholarship and within many universities and first-year composition programs: instructor training and support. In fact, as far back as 2004, in her book How to Be a Great Online Teacher, Kay Johnson Lehmann writes: “the exponential growth of online learning is leaving holes in the bread loaf known as education.”  Of all the “undersupplied ingredients,” the ingredient most missing, Lehmann contends, is “the proper training and support for those who wish to teach successfully online” (v).  Within the OWI Position Statement, this “proper training and support” is addressed under the section of the document called “Faculty Principles,” in which three key principles are laid out to support faculty development and success with online writing instruction:

  • “Writing Program Administrators (WPAs) for OWI programs and their online writing teachers should receive appropriate OWI-focused training, professional development, and assessment for evaluation and promotion purposes.”

  • “Online writing teachers should receive fair and equitable compensation for their work.”

  • Online writing classes should be capped responsibly at 20 students per course with 15 being a preferable number.”

Yet, while these principles are laudable and can serve as important guides to institutions looking to establish their own OWI training and development programs, the principles, insofar as they are positioned as “baseline requirements” for OWI success, can seem a bit daunting and unattainable, especially for institutions who offer online writing instruction but whose budgets do not support lower course caps, paid training sessions, or adequate release time for WPA’s to develop and require mandatory, in-depth training.   For such institutions, the baseline requirements offered in the OWI Position Statement are not entirely feasible and sustainable.

Workshop Goal: The goal, then, of this workshop is to offer instructors – particularly those from universities that offer online composition instruction but not structured faculty training or development -- the opportunity to develop ideas for a sustainable instructor training and development program within the context of their own university’s budget, resources, and administrative support structure.  While the OWI Principles will be used as a guiding force in making such decisions, so will research presented by the workshop leader, including a collection of survey data from over 100 universities which will outline various approaches and models for OWI training and development – such models will vary widely in terms of funding, intensity, and administrative commitment and support.  Before they begin to develop their individualized plans, workshop participants, working alone and in small groups, will discuss and contemplate several questions, including:

  • Who, at their university, would be charged with developing and conducting OWI instructor training and development?

  • What compensation is available to this individual or group of individuals?

  • How would participants for training be selected?

  • Would participants be compensated?  How?

  • What “essential” areas must the training include?

  • How would the effectiveness of the training be assessed and by whom?

  • What staffing and resources are needed to ensure that this training can be sustained from year to year?

While participants in the workshop will obviously not emerge with fully formed OWI training and development plans, the hope is they leave with a template and a good starting point which they can take back to their institutions.  For even if participants work at institutions where adopting the “baseline requirements” in the OWI Position Statement might be difficult or impossible, they can still develop a workable, sustainable training and development program which can succeed within the context of their university and first-year writing program.


 

 

Context: 
Successful OWI depends on instructors who are literate about teaching in online environments, and while, on the one hand, documents such as recently published OWI Position Statement offer rather idealized notions of what constitutes effective instructor training and development, on the other hand, many institutions offer little to no support for online instructors. The workshop offers a bit of a middle ground, encouraging instructors and presenting them with models/resources to develop sustainable training/development programs within the context and limitations of their own university’s budget, resources, and administrative support.
Proposal Type: 
workshop