How to Train Faculty to Create Quality Online Courses

image representing online courses

As online learning continues to grow, it’s more important than ever to make sure instructors know how to create quality online courses, including custom video. Faculty new to video need guidance on how to use new technology and connect with students online, while tech-savvy instructors seek ways to make their online courses more engaging.

Training faculty to create quality online courses, however, can be challenging. It can involve overcoming barriers in technology, workflow, student-instructor relationships, and mindset. From colleges across the country, below are strategies and techniques to help get all your faculty to create quality online courses.

How to Train Faculty to Use New Video Software

With numerous schedule and research obligations, it can be tough to motivate instructors to learn yet another new software tool. It really helps to provide training options for different learning styles and preferences, so each instructor can self-serve as much as possible and pick the method that works best for them to learn the software needed for quality online courses.

Provide readable and watchable instructions (plus FAQs)
Create clear, written directions with high-quality screenshots. Create video tutorials, too (screencasts). Both the readable and watchable versions should show faculty where to click for each step, and what to do next.

Including visuals is key. According to new research by behavioral economist Dr. Alastair Goode, two-thirds (67%) of employees are better at completing tasks when information includes text with images (screenshots) or video than by text alone. House instructions in an intuitive place – preferably, in your LMS or other hosting location that is near where they’ll be making their own quality online courses.

Pro tip: Make training relatable with webcam
Include your face from your webcam when recording training videos. Researchers from MIT and the University of Rochester found people pay more attention to videos with a ‘talking head.’ Insert webcam footage as picture-in-picture, or toggle between the webcam and screen when demonstrating steps.

Video training is also a great way to reach out-of-town instructors. “Many of our adjuncts aren’t local in Odessa, they are all over the United States,” explained Jennifer Lee, Web Design and Instructional Technology Specialist at Odessa College “It’s easier to reach adjuncts with video – record workshops and put them in BlackBoard.” Include a table of contents, so faculty can quickly click through topics to watch or re-learn content.

Explain the entire workflow across tools (not just each separate tool)
One of the most common errors when training instructors is showing faculty how to use each digital tool, but not the overall workflow across all tools. Once they record their video, what file type should they save it in, so it’s an acceptable file format for the Learning Management System (LMS)? How do they go back and make changes once a video is saved? Make sure to include enough instructions about every step along the way.

Pro tip: Work with what you have (but plan to get integrated video)
It’s worth saying that one of the keys to successful training is to start with a video platform that is easy to use in the first place. Being able to create and view videos within the system faculty already use (LMS, etc.) is one of the single biggest things you can do to increase faculty adoption.

At the University of Colorado Denver, administrators didn’t see broad adoption until they made their video platform work with their LMS. “It wasn’t until we installed the LTI integration into all of our Canvas courses that faculty usage really took off,” explained Alex Karklins, CU Online Academic Services Senior Professional. Boise State University had a similar experience. They saw much greater adoption after making the switch to an easier-to-use lecture capture system.

Skip all-university invites
Instead, train select groups at a time. Training by department, unit, or other work-related group lets faculty learn in a familiar setting with people they know (as opposed to a huge group of people from all departments who they may not know very well).

“We found that some users who were uncomfortable using new technology were a little more open to trying it if they had friends/coworker who were also going to be trying it,” explains Jennifer. This also lets you provide specific instructions for each department’s particular software programs and workflow (such as nursing faculty who use their smartphone to capture practical skills).

Pro tip: Where do I host training?
Host training in a place that replicates the tools (internal network, or other department-specific system) they’ll need when they’re on their own. Computer labs are great for this. You can also provide dedicated recording areas, or just have faculty meet anywhere and bring their laptop.

Plan for online-only training, too
Remote instructors need more than just on-demand instructions. Record a hands-on workshop session and include it along with written and watchable instructions, as the core training package. When they need assistance, record just-in-time video responses to their questions, and share with the entire remote group.

One-on-one, case-by-case
A smaller percentage of staff will need one-on-one assistance. Plan for this ahead of time – budget the resources to meet with them about their specific questions.

Odessa College offers these personalized training sessions as a final approach to onboarding. “These sessions are usually short and focused, but the faculty seem to find them very helpful,” explains Jennifer. “For many of them, once we show them how easy it is to create that first video, it boosted their confidence a great deal (and even got them excited). They started doing more and more on their own with less guidance from us.”

Some instructors philosophically resist new technology. They’re a challenging set to turn around, however, they are usually a small group. Provide specific examples of how quality online courses will benefit their department and them, professionally and personally. Remind them that technology amplifies the instructor’s importance within a course (not the other way around). Sometimes the best progress happens slowly. Leif Nelson, Director of Learning Technology Solutions at Boise State University, explains that it doesn’t always happen all at once. “There’s definitely a step approach to get people used to what’s possible with technology.”

Pro tip: Employ your rock stars
Faculty who have been creating quality online courses for a long time can be great promoters of your new software system. Encourage these ‘rock-star instructors’ to mentor other faculty to create their first videos.

How to Train Faculty to Build a Quality Online Presence

Now that faculty know how to use the technology-side of things, it’s time to tackle the next step – the elements they’ll need to build quality online courses.

With the right strategies, instructors can interact with online students, be attuned to their questions, and give personalized feedback, all while measuring participation and comprehension. Here are time-tested components you can guide faculty to include when they begin creating quality online courses.

Intro video
Recommended as the first video to create and share in any online course, this lets faculty introduce themselves and talk about goals for the course. Plus, instructors can share a bit about what makes them unique, so students get to know them right away.

welcome video for quality online courses

Tracy Schaelen, Distance Education Faculty Coordinator at Southwestern College, provides a basic welcome video to all her online students.

Course navigation video
In this video, faculty can cover common questions such as ‘Where do you go to find the syllabus?”, “How do I submit an assignment in the LMS?,” and “Where is the lab schedule?” Instructors will notice fewer repetitive questions being asked about course logistics, contact scenarios, and office hours (virtual or in person).

One Odessa College nursing instructor created a quick smartphone video when her blended learning students had trouble locating her on campus. It walked students through the labyrinth of office hallways to get to her door. “It was different, but people loved it because it showed she’s a real person,” said Shawn Shreves, VP of Information Technology, Odessa College. “It made it personal.”

New week, topic, or unit video
Faculty can share their excitement about what’s coming up, so students know what to expect for the unit or week, and feel connected. It sets the right tone for a quality online course, and starts building a personal connection, from the beginning.

Ryan Eash using webcam in his quality online course

Ryan Eash introduces week two of his EDU 651 online course, walking students through what to expect.

Pro tip: When they don’t like the sound of their own voice
Not being comfortable with their own voice is a common complaint you may hear while training faculty to create quality online course videos.

When Stephanie Entringer began recording videos at Southeast Technical University, she was hesitant. “When I was new, video freaked me out. No-one likes to hear themselves.” Soon, she realized that her voice helps build a unique relationship with her online students, and any perceived imperfections weren’t anything to worry about. “We’re all human. It doesn’t have to be perfect.” Encourage them to not only accept their voice, but let their personality shine as they build quality online course content.

Walk through documents
Direct instructors to create personalized ‘explainer’ videos to go along with core course documents (assignments, etc.). These work best as informal, off-the-cuff clips; frequent and personable.

“Students really don’t care if I make a mistake, have a bad hair day, or sneeze on video,” says Tracy Schaelen, Distance Education Faculty Coordinator, Southwestern College. “They want to see me—the real person, not a professional spokesperson.” Instructors can walk students through:

  • Syllabus
  • Course schedule
  • Lab procedures
  • Project or report details
  • Due dates, timelines, and other course goals

Assignment and project feedback videos
Instead of writing assignment feedback, have faculty record their feedback as a quick video. Instructors can record a video of themselves explaining notations in a marked-up written essay, narrate their response to a report or practical skills assignment, or walk through how to correctly do a calculus equation. Students love this type of individualized, conversation-style feedback as part of quality online courses.

Student-created videos
Whether it’s to create a video essay response on literature, prove a complex theorem, or record a group lab project in a blended learning course, tasking students to create their own video assignments helps foster creativity about the subject matter and build digital skills. Faculty can also have students create their own welcome videos, or video responses within discussion threads or forums, for increased student-to-student engagement in a quality online course.

Be responsive
Lastly, it’s hugely important that faculty are reachable and respond quickly to student questions. Huss and Eastep’s study of college students found that students expect email responses from their instructors within 12-24 hours.

In addition to email response times, guide faculty to proactively communicate with students weekly or several times per week, turn around assignment feedback as quickly as possible, and share quiz scores promptly.

How to Train Faculty to Create Engaging Core Course Videos

A huge part of quality online courses are personalized video lessons. Simply assigning PowerPoints, textbook reading, or other written lessons just isn’t enough. Video is essential to bridging the digital distance between instructor and students.

Aim for short, concise video lessons
Instead of recording hour-long lectures at the podium, encourage faculty to create shorter video lessons (around 10 minutes each, or less, according to a study from MIT and University of Rochester) for quality online courses. These mini-lectures are easier for students to comprehend, keep their attention much better than a full-class-length lecture, and make it easier to rewatch topics for test prep.

Faculty can record anything on their screen, right from their own computer – presentation slides, documents, webpages, or any other documents. Or, they can hand-write equations for calculus, physics, and more, right on their screen, as if they are writing on a blackboard.

Make the most of video’s strength – keep it visual
According to research by Richard E. Mayer, professor of psychology at UC-Santa Barbara, the old adage is true about the worth of a picture – people learn more easily from words and images than from words alone, especially when images help us process information.

Diagram of a hydrogen fuel cell in a quality online course

It’s easy to see why students learn the function of a hydrogen fuel cell more easily with narration and the above image, as opposed to with words alone.

Direct faculty to:

  • Use colorful visuals that help students understand concepts (as opposed to only words, or simple icons)
  • Include images, graphs, and diagrams
  • Include their face from their webcam (picture-in-picture, or switch back and forth)
  • Use words sparingly on presentation slides

Compared with a podium lecture, instructors have more control of how they present video lessons in quality online courses. They can use colorful visual aids to make their points, which are often difficult to use effectively in a big lecture hall, as well as music, backgrounds, animations, green screen, and more, to make topics easier to learn.

Pro tip: Bring in content from the web
In addition to their own video lessons, faculty can harness educational video content from YouTube and other places to help demonstrate course concepts. Also known as “bookend-ing,” instructors can add their own introduction clip (to preface the external content) and outro clip (to wrap up what’s been learned), as a supplement to their core lessons.

Using their existing smartphone, tablet, or other mobile device, they can capture labs and practical skills in healthcare, chemistry, culinary, and more.

Instructor Heidi Clippard in one of Mott Community College's quality online courses

Instructors at Mott Community College use the power of video to teach hands-on applications, as seen here by health science professor Heidi Clippard.

Make room for discussions
Have faculty include ways to discuss topics with students, and for students to discuss topics with each other. Discussion boards, forums, and email threads can all work for this within quality online courses. Here’s a few ways to keep discussions lively:

  • Ask open-ended questions (avoid “yes” or “no” questions).
  • Have students add their thoughts to discussions regularly, or set minimums to spark interaction.
  • Faculty can have students lead discussions.
  • Have students record video responses to questions, and share with the class.
  • Use chat or messaging apps, live video cams for group discussions, and video commenting.

Carl Weckerle, Online Learning Director at Macomb Community College, is focused on retention and success in online classes. “Anything that enhances that idea of social presence, especially for online students, would be beneficial. It’s an area of growth for us and I think for online in general, and for community colleges in general.”

Regardless of the method, it’s imperative that faculty are active in class discussion, checking in often, asking meaningful questions, and stirring more conversation.

How to Train Faculty to Measure Quality Online Courses

A crucial component to quality online courses is measuring student outcomes. Are students learning? Are they showing up consistently?

Participation
Video viewership is a clear way to gauge basic attendance and ongoing participation. Guide faculty to track (and grade) each student individually regarding:

  • Who watched each video
  • How much they’ve watched
  • When they’ve watched

At Odessa College, instructors monitor viewing percentages to measure online participation and to help identify at-risk students. “We need to know when those students are struggling, when they’re not watching a video, or when they blow a quiz in BlackBoard,” said Shawn. “All that data just gives us more information so we can provide a much quicker response.”

Comprehension
According to Harvard research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), “Enhancing videos with quizzes improves student engagement, reduces mind-wandering by 50%, increases note-taking by 300%, and improves learning outcomes by 30%.”

Direct faculty to include quiz questions directly in their video lessons, to measure learning early and often. Scores can go directly into instructors’ LMS gradebook, and can work for any subject or major of study. Have faculty:

  • Embed quiz questions within their videos (as opposed to have a quiz only at the end). This lets faculty make sure students are actively watching the entire video – they can’t just press ‘play’ and walk away.
  • Ask a mix of choice-type questions and open-ended (essay-type) questions. Quizzes can be formative, summative, qualitative, or quantitative. They can be multiple choice, true/false, fill in the blank, or open-ended.
  • Tie grade points to quiz results. Tracie Lee, Lecturer in the College of Business and Economics at Boise State University, has found that students won’t take optional quizzes. Instead, she scores them as part of their participation/attendance grade. “Short videos with embedded quiz questions let students interact with the material and get instant feedback on their understanding of a concept,” said Tracie.“It’s amazing how their scores on the video quizzes track how they will do on their exams.”
Tracie Lee’s Business Statistics 207 quality online course video with quizzes

As seen in Tracie Lee’s Business Statistics 207 video above, interactive quizzes throughout measure student comprehension while increasing engagement in the lesson.

Faculty can also do survey/polls after each video lesson to see how many students grasp a specific concept. All of these metrics together show instructors which students are doing well, which ones are getting by, and which are struggling.

Student Feedback, Perception, and Retention
Encourage faculty to gather feedback early and often on the effectiveness of their quality online courses. What are they hearing from students? Faculty can ask for student feedback:

  • At the end of each video and/or video lesson (What did you like about this video? What helped you learn the best?)
  • At the end of each week, unit, or theme
  • Mid-term, or before exam prep
  • At the end of each course

The goal is to ask for feedback often, learn from all feedback, and adjust instruction accordingly.

Third-party verification
Beyond making sure quality online courses meet your own standards, there are several third-party organizations that can check to make sure online programs meet quality guidelines, such as the level and depth of course interactivity, etc. Organizations include Quality Online Learning & Teaching (QOLT), Quality Online Course Initiative (QOCI), Community of Inquiry, and the ever-popular Quality Matters.

Make it Accessible
Ideally, you want an LMS and video platform that allows you to create and share accessible content and includes accessible navigation, screen-reader-friendly web design, playback, and more.

When training faculty to create quality online courses, have them include:

  • Captions for each video – These can be translated by a third-party, automatically generated by your video platform, or written in by hand. An easy-to-use, web-based editor is a huge help to make corrections that are ADA-compliant.
  • Clear titles and descriptions for course videos, syllabus, written assignments, and other materials, so screen readers can navigate the material.
  • Verbal descriptions of anything they are displaying on video (charts, graphs, medical diagrams, etc.), so that visually-impaired students can learn the concepts.

We hope this has been helpful in sparking ways to train your faculty on the technology needed to create quality online courses, the course elements needed, and the mindset for building a quality online course that engages students. You’ll find the methods that work the best for your faculty and staff, and can continue to iterate as you find the best way to do things for your institution.