Category Archives: Faculty Support

Course Evaluations and Adjunct Teaching: #AdjunctChat

I’m guest hosting #AdjunctChat again this week (3/18)! Join in on Tuesday at 4pmET.

End-of-term student evaluations are a common way to ask students for feedback at the course level. The format has changed, at many colleges and universities, from paper and pencil questionnaires to online forms.

As an online adjunct instructor at two universities, I’ve had trouble accessing evaluation results in the past. It can take a long time for the completed forms to be tabulated and distributed to the instructor, and there is often a low response rate. But recently, and quite coincidentally, I received notification from each of my institutions letting me know about new systems that allow me to log in and retrieve all of my past evaluations.

Having access to the information is just the start. Now to figure out how the feedback can be put to practical use. From course revision to future job applications, there are many possibilities. For this week’s #AdjunctChat, we’ll use the following questions to guide the discussion:

  • What role do student evaluations play in your adjunct teaching?
  • When, how do you receive formal feedback from your students?
  • Do you have any specific examples of how these evaluations have been a benefit to you?
  • Do you conduct your own course evaluations?
  • What are your suggestions for improving the process for adjunct instructors?

Related resources:

How Do Course Evaluations Affect Adjunct Teaching?

Developing and Evaluating Adjunct Faculty

Explore Alternatives for Online Course Evaluation

What would you like to cover during this chat? Please add your ideas and questions to the comments area below, and plan to join us on Tuesday, March 18th at 4pmET! All are welcome.

UPDATE: Thanks to everyone who participated in this conversation! If you missed the session, the AdjunctChat site will post a transcript and a Storify version is linked below.

Turning the Tables: Instructional Designer as SME

This post is a reflection on a recently completed project – I was the subject matter expert (SME) for a new online course in instructional design – a welcome opportunity to experience the course development process from a different perspective.

The project was unique in that the course being developed was an instructional design course and all of the members of the team were professional instructional designers. (Reminding me of past experiences where I had to submit a resume for positions that involved resume writing – kind of a double test! The proof is in the pudding and all of that.) I was provided with a course description and list of approved course-level learning objectives.  The next steps were up to me. This was where the adventure began. Normally I hand off a description and objectives. Time to get to work. I began by preparing and submitting a Course Outline and went from there.

Project team

My initial concern was that this could become a case of too much input or competitive in nature, but this was not the case. Collaboration was a priority and effective and I learned from the team in the process.

  • Instructional Designer/Project Manager (ID/PM) – This is my usual place on the team… keep the schedule, set the deadlines, set up and facilitate progress reports and meetings, provide feedback on the work and some copy editing.
  • Multimedia Developer – Took my development guide from Word document to online course pages complete with images, icons, navigation etc. Made great suggestions related to organization and structure.
  • SME – I was to outline the scope and sequence of the content, write any text for the units, select the textbook and course materials, and create assignments.

Food for thought

What could this turning of tables do for my practice?

  • Course/Program Fit – Where does the course fit in with the program? I was provided with the development guide for the course that would precede this one in the degree plan – very helpful! Not something I usually do, but something I should do, especially with new courses and programs. Faculty SMEs tend to be more familiar with the curriculum when working on a revision.
  • Expectations –Assumptions can bog the process down. While it was clear (via detailed contract) on what to expect with this project, there were a few nuances. For example the SMEs I work with aren’t expected to create rubrics, but I was for this project. The more detail the better in the written contract and/or statement of work.
  • Volume of Content – I have heard this from SMEs, the comments about how much original content is required. And now I have experienced it for myself! When the writing of introductions, summaries, case studies etc. is required it can be more time consuming than you anticipate. Scheduling the due dates by unit, or groups of units, was helpful here.
  • Need for Feedback – The ID/PM on this project continuously gave me feedback on the content I was submitting, providing suggestions on ways to expand and clarify the presentation. I need to do more of this with my project SMEs throughout the process.
  • Finished Product – I got a sneak peak via web conference and desktop sharing at what the final version looked like. I wanted to see more! The SMEs I work with ask for this, too. After you’ve spent so much time working with the content it is a feeling of accomplishment to see the finished course online.

This project turned out to be a reality check for me about how I work with SMEs and what could be done differently. How can you improve support to your SMEs?

Image credit: schoeband, Flickr

Preparing Faculty SMEs to Join the Team

It is not news that online course development teams in higher education rely on (need!) faculty members as content or subject matter experts (SME). My experience is that faculty members joining design teams on these projects are often doing so for the first time. They’ve often been asked by their Department Chair to work with this often new group of techies to build an online course. They are used to working alone or with small groups of other academics on course development. They will likely end up being the instructor for the course, if they aren’t teaching it already.

Preparing faculty to serve in this new role can ease the transition. Here are a few things to consider from the perspective of project manager, instructional designer, course developer:

Connect SMEs with training on the LMS (and maybe even basic HTML editing) – Know the workshop schedules, the good online tutorials, and have a contact on the faculty development and support side you can personally put the SME in contact with. While the SME will not usually be responsible for loading content into a LMS, it may help for them to understand where you’re going.

Connect with training on online instruction – If the SME doesn’t have a lot of experience with online instruction, hooking him/her up with workshops and seminars related to facilitating online discussion (asynchronous/synchronous) and selecting instructional strategies can open up a few more possibilities.

Encourage networking with peers – Are there other faculty SMEs you have worked with in the past that might be willing to share feedback or lessons learned? It’s also helpful to provide examples of previously developed courses and multimedia elements.

Provide easy-to-edit formats – What you really need from the SME is input on content and revision of existing content. If a Word document works best, use it to provide them with the text that requires editing. This may create an extra step or two for the staffer responsible for getting the content online, but in the long run will save time and frustration on the part of the SME – the team member with the most challenging schedule.

Outline clear-cut responsibilities and tasks – Schedule regular meeting times (F2F or virtual) and assign tasks for all team members with specific deadlines. It’s a team effort and all of the pieces need to come together as smoothly as possible. Outline roles and expectations and review the project’s production schedule periodically with the group.

Develop a written Memorandum of Agreement – Perhaps this should be listed first. As the SME is identified and prepares to join the team outline in writing the project’s purpose (new course, revision), development timeline, roles and responsibilities of all team members. Also address compensation and how copyright and acknowledgements will be handled. Best to go ahead and get these conversations started.

Foster a supportive climate – Encourage creativity, innovation, input and feedback throughout the process. This goes for the team as a whole, not just the SME. Everyone has a role to play and ideas to contribute. What has this faculty member always wanted to try or include in the course, but didn’t have the resources to do alone? Now may be the time.

Communicate clearly and often – Early on it is helpful to develop some kind of communication plan. How does the SME prefer to be contacted with updates, requests for review, changes – email, phone? Find what works and document progress on at least a monthly basis.

Do you work with faculty content experts to develop online courses? Please add your comments and suggestions to the list.

photo credit: jisc_infonet, Flickr