We don’t expect students to succeed alone. Instead we provide curriculums, course materials, and instructors to help them learn. Yet, we so often apply a different standard for faculty. We roll out new technology or announce new procedures without offering any real guidance on how to use these tools. As a result, both students and faculty suffer. To create truly effective learning environments for students, we first need to provide adequate training for faculty.
You might be nodding along at this point. Of course we want faculty who know how to use the tools we give them. Of course we want to create positive learning environments for students. Of course we understand the power of technology to enhance education.
Why then, do so many instructors feel like they’re floundering?
Why are they left to learn this technology on their own?
If your answer is, they’re smart, they’ll figure it out. Or, we don’t have time to teach them what they could learn themselves, you’re missing the whole point.
Of course your instructors are “smart.” They’re experts in their field with education and experience that far outpaces the average person, and that’s exactly the point. They’re experts in psychology, physics, law or math, not in whatever digital tool you’ve asked them to suddenly start using.
It took decades for them to gain expertise in their field with instructors and mentors to help along the way. Now you want to wait decades for them to gain expertise in this new technology?
Teachers are not the problem
Way back in 2013, a somewhat contested study found that teachers were not being adequately trained for the classroom. By 2017, the results from a different study seemed no more encouraging. The Learning Policy Institute found plenty of room for improvement in teacher training.
Teachers seem to agree. In 2017, a study found that 78% of teachers feel they don’t have the training they need to feel comfortable with technology in the classroom. Spend time on LinkedIn or Twitter where the teachers hang out, and you’ll find the same concerns mentioned again and again. “We need more support. These tools seem great but how do we use them? Does anyone know how to…”
Instead of leaving faculty to flounder, give them the training they need to gain expertise in online education. We’re not talking about a two-day seminar on how to use the Learning Management System. That’s not enough. Bring in an expert who understands the technology and can explain it simply. Then apply the same principles you would apply to teaching anything. Allow them to learn by doing. Provide bite-sized pieces of information to help them gain mastery in specific areas. Encourage them to talk to each other and share what they’ve learned. Give them resources. Give them mentors.
The rewards of faculty training
Allowing faculty to learn on their own might seem like the less expensive or least labor intensive solution. In the short run, that might be true. In the long run, untrained faculty chip away at your money, time, and reputation.
Untrained faculty cost you money – Spending on technical support, lost revenue from dissatisfied students, and buying more tools to fix problems that wouldn’t be problems if everyone knew how to use the technology correctly costs more than just training everyone in the first place.
Untrained faculty waste time – Confusion over course development, time spent troubleshooting issues, and the rework that arises from not fully utilizing the available tools, wastes time. Nobody likes wasting time, so everyone gets more frustrated the longer this goes on.
Untrained faculty damage your reputation – Students may come to believe your teachers aren’t very good, even though they are, or that the trouble of dealing with technical glitches is preventing them from learning. They may speak poorly about you to friends and family or post scathing reviews on social media. That’s a big problem because students name online reviews, college search sites (which have reviews), and recommendations of friends and family as their top three most influential factors when choosing a school.
What the pandemic has taught us
The current crisis has made faculty training more urgent than ever. When faculty-student interactions are restricted to online spaces, instructors are challenged to provide the same supportive and results-focused learning environment in a new way.
Despite the lack of training, faculty achieve amazing things for their students. If the pandemic has taught us anything it’s that teachers can adapt to change. They can think on their feet and they can learn to use new technology quickly. Imagine what they could accomplish with a little help.
Your faculty want to do their best for their students. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be teachers. Don’t just give them tools and hope for the best, train them in how to use those tools. Your faculty and your students, will thank you.